Jamerious Borden, Correspondent
The Jacksonville State men’s basketball team earned a 76-64 win over Eastern Illinois in a highlight-rich game Thursday night at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Despite seeing their lead merge into five points in the winding minutes, the Gamecocks (13-7, 9-5 OVC) gained control of the driver’s seat the entire game and led by as many as 25 points in the second half.
“We got a little lackadaisical near the end, but we looked close to the team we’re capable of being when we dialed in,” Head Coach Ray Harper said.
Along with a monstrous, thunderous slam dunk, senior Kayne Henry tailed 17 points while collecting eight rebounds , while fellow senior Darian Adams totaled a team-high 18 points after going scoreless in the first half.
“Kayne played really well tonight. He’s a kid who doesn’t know how good he can be. He was aggressive, attacking the rim and going after rebounds. He really showed what he can do tonight.”
After scoring the first basket, Jax State never looked anywhere else but ahead. The defense held the Panthers (7-15, 4-11 OVC) to just 20 percent shooting (8-for-40) and did not allow an EIU 3-pointer in the opening period.
Owning the first half, Henry scored 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting (62.5%). Besides the London, England native, the only Gamecocks to score more than five points in the first 20 minutes were Brandon Huffman and Amanze Ngumezi, totaling for seven points each.
Leading 38-19 at the half, was the lowest scoring half for a Gamecock opponent this season.
Eastern Illinois’ Mack Smith opened the second period with the Panthers’ first 3-pointer of the night, but he soon found his team down by a game-high 25 points once Jax State came rolling with thunder. Huffman answered the trey with a two-handed dunk and Adams hit a jumper to completely erase the EIU bucket.
Then, Henry followed up with an alley-oop jam on an amazing feed by Jalen Finch who ended up a total of eight assists. A pair of Henry free throws just minutes later made it a 49-26 game in favor of the Gamecocks.
EIU battled back to make things interesting with less than two minutes to go, though. The Panthers pieced a five-minute, 15-2 run that cut the JSU advantage to 65-58, but Adams widened the gap back to double digits with a steal and breakaway dunk to stop EIU in their tracks.
After going scoreless in the first half, Adams was 4-for-6 from the floor with three 3 pointers, and knocked down seven of nine free-throw attempts.