Jamerious Borden, Correspondent
Even though it took an extra five minutes to get into rhythm, Jacksonville State outlasted Murray State 68-65 last Thursday to move on to the second round of the Ohio Valley Conference championships.
It was Jax State’s third consecutive win over the Racers (13-13) this season and the first against the Kentucky rivals in postseason play. The Gamecocks (18-8) were previously 0-3 against MSU in the OVC Tournament.
Senior Darian Adams tailed with 22 points with 11 coming in the second half to lead Jax State back from a six-point deficit. The Gamecocks previously trailed for more than 15 minutes in the second period before rallying back to force overtime.
Trailing 55-53 with less than two minutes left, Adams pulled up a three-pointer to put the Red and white ahead by one. Kayne Henry put JSU up by two with a free throw, 57-55, but Murray State’s Tevin Brown hit a game-tying basket at the end of regulation to send the contest to overtime.
Brown led the Racers in scoring with six points in the OT period, scoring four in a row to put his team ahead by two, but Jacksonville State struck twice to retake the lead with less than a minute to play. Jalen Finch hit a layup to tie the game, 65-65, and Henry put the Gamecocks up by a pair with a layup with his own.
With 10 seconds remaining, Murray State fouled to send Demaree King to the line. The junior hit the front end to extend the advantage to three, and the Racers missed a couple of last-second looks as time expired.
“I thought it was a great game between two really good teams,” said head coach Ray Harper. “I thought it could have gone either way, but our kids were great down the stretch. I thought it was a lot more physical than the first two times we played them. I thought they bodied Huffman a lot down low. We settled for some early shots in the first half, but I thought we settled in and made smarter shots in the second half.”
Adam’s seventh 20-point game of the year came on 6-for-16 shooting with three 3-pointers. The senior was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line while drawing eight fouls.
“We figured out a win to win,” Adams said. “I did not feel like going home today. I did whatever I had to do to get the win.”
Despite being limited inside the perimeter, Huffman collected a quiet double-double on 10 points and a team-leading 14 rebounds. Henry was Jacksonville State’s second-leading scorer with 14 points.
Murray State was unable to take advantage of having a pair of 20-point performances in the first-round loss. Brown paced the Racers with 24 points, while KJ Williams followed up with 23.