Jamerious Borden, Correspondent
The Jacksonville State men’s basketball team matched its longest winning streak of the season Saturday with an 80-60 win over Southern Illinois at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
The fourth Jax State win in a row comes as five scored in double figures for the Gamecocks (14-7, 10-5 OVC), including a 16-point performance by Amanze Ngumezi.
“We will take that from him every night,” said head coach Ray Harper. “Amanze and Brandon Huffman gave SIUE a lot of trouble from the inside especially when they tried doubling them. Amanze is a great shooter, but when he establishes himself in the low post area, he’s hard to beat. I feel like that’s the best part of the game.”
Both forwards combined for 29 points, helping JSU outscore SIUE (8-11, 6-7 OVC) by 16 in the paint. Also, they totaled 15 rebounds, overtaking the Cougars 40-29 on the boards for 19 second-chance points.
Jacksonville State’s defense forced the Cougars to cough up the ball 15 times Saturday, capitalizing on the miscues for 19 points, which made this the sixth time this season that the Gamecocks forced 15 turnovers or more. On the opposite end of the court, the offense shared the ball for 30 field goals on 21 assists.
“I thought we took some steps forward today,” said Harper. “We’re still taking steps as we come down the stretch, and we still have two weeks to get better.”
SIUE led for less than 25 seconds following a Courtney Carter 3-pointer that gave the Cougars a brief 3-2 advantage. Kayne Henry erased the lead with a layup which led the Gamecocks looking forward instead of back.
Trailing by 13 with seconds to go before halftime, SIUE’s Sidney Wilson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Jax State lead down to a dime, 40-30, but the two teams seemed to match their scores exactly in the second half to push the game’s final to 20 points.
After a silent first half, Jalen Finch scored eight points to lead JSU through the final 20 minutes. The point guard scored three of his four baskets in the last period, including a 3-pointer and a free throw.
Along with Amanze’s 16 and Huffman’s 13, Demaree King and Jalen Finch tailed 11 points. Darian Adams ended the night with 10 points to round out double-digit scorers.
Wilson was the Cougar’s leading scorer, putting up 17 points on 6-for-15 shooting (40%).
With their fourth straight victory, the Gamecocks hit the road next week, traveling to Music City for a pair of OVC contests.
Jax State visits Belmont on Thursday for a 7 p.m. matchup. Then, JSU wraps up the trip to the Volunteer State on Saturday at 4 p.m. against Tennessee State at the Gentry Center. Both games will be streamed live on ESPN+ and broadcast on WLJS 91.9 FM, JSU’s student-run radio station.