Kyle Davie, Correspondent
The Gamecocks’ dreams of a long postseason run were cut short on Thursday, March 5 as they fell to Panthers of Eastern Illinois University, 49-46 in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Basketball Championships.
The Gamecocks entered as the fifth seed in the tournament matched up against a fourth seeded EIU team that bested them by three earlier in the season.
In a defensive showdown, the Gamecocks gave their all in their final game of the season and took the game down to the wire. In the final quarter, there were only nine total points scored over the rest of the game and only three more lead changes.
After being up by ten at one point in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville was outscored 12-2 leading into the final media timeout, which tied the game at 43-43.
EIU then took the lead with almost two minutes to go, but not to be denied, JSU guard Nekiyah Thompson converted an and-one layup with 52 seconds remaining to take a one-point lead.
The first-year guard ended the night with five points, five assists, and two rebounds. However, that lead would only last for eight seconds before EIU regained it and ultimately won. A lay-up and a pair of free throws would lead to their 49-46 victory.
Throughout the game, the Gamecocks struggled offensively with 17 turnovers and shot at a mere 33 percent from the field and just 22 percent from the three-point line. However, the stingy defense of JSU and some key offensive rebounds kept the Gamecocks in the game.
Graduate senior Destiney Elliot led the team in scoring with 13 points. Elliot also had seven rebounds, four assists and a block for the night.
Redshirt senior Chloe Long earned herself a place in the Gamecock record books by grabbing 6 rebounds in the game and collecting 700 rebounds total for her career. She now ranks seventh in total rebounds in Gamecock history.
Guard Kiana Johnson also turned in a quality performance and was the second leading scorer on the team with 12 points. She also tallied eight rebounds and two assists.
Meanwhile, Taylor Hawks finished with eight points and three rebounds, and redshirt junior forward Jessie Day finished with five points, five rebounds and two assists.
The Gamecocks finished higher than they were predicted to, based on preseason rankings, and they will go into next season with a good amount of returning players.