Coley Birchfield, Correspondent
The Jacksonville State University’s men’s basketball team lost their first game of the 2020-21 season on Wednesday, Nov. 25. The Alabama Crimson Tide took advantage of poor Gamecock shooting and picked up their win by a score of 81-57.
The Thanksgiving Eve game, featured on the SEC Network, showcased a JSU team filled with newcomers. Fifth-year head coach Ray Harper welcomed seven transfers and four freshmen to an already-young team.
“We knew how difficult this game was going to be,” said Harper. “It was our first time out with 11 new guys, but I saw some things I think we can build on and we competed. We had a lot of guys play, and we wanted to give everyone a look to see what we can kind of expect moving forward.”
Demaree King, a transfer from Northern Oklahoma College, led the Gamecocks in scoring with 15 points. However, no other Gamecock had more than 10 points.
Many of the Gamecocks’ struggles stemmed from the quiet shooting night. Collectively, they only accumulated a 27.5% field goal percentage, while also only shooting 58% from the free-throw line. The Alabama Crimson Tide only held a slight shooting advantage with a 39% field goal percentage.
Alabama, a team picked to finish fifth in the Southeastern Conference by its conference media, showcased an exciting backcourt. The duo of Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly combined for 36 points and 12 rebounds. Quinerly, a transfer from Villanova University, carries high expectations in his first eligible season with the Crimson Tide.
The limitation of crowds and unfamiliar COVID-19 precautions likely played a role in the bad shooting performances. A Coleman Coliseum operating at 13% capacity was both quiet and empty; a factor that is foreign to both teams. Both teams benches were also spread along the baselines to allow social distancing.
One positive takeaway from Wednesday’s performance was the scoring seen from the JSU bench players. They combined to score 39 of JSU’s 57 points.
The Gamecocks found themselves trailing to the Crimson Tide early in the first half after having a four minute scoring drought. Until this point, JSU held a 3-point lead and controlled the game’s pace. That stretch allowed the Crimson Tide to find their offensive mentality and they did not look back.
If Ray Harper’s team is able to shake the rust off, the Gamecocks could once again push for a second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in his tenure. The 3-point shooting of Martin Roub and the inside presence of North Carolina transfer, Brandon Huffman, is something that is expected to define the 2020-21 team.
JSU, now 3-1, won all three weekend games in the South Alabama Tournament against Florida Atlantic, South Alabama and NCAA Div. II University of Mobile from Friday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Nov. 29.
Their first home game will be against Tennessee Tech, a conference opponent, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, which can be viewed on C-USA TV and listened on WLJS 91.9 FM, JSU’s student-ran radio station.