Preston Odam, Correspondent
Jacksonville State women’s basketball team dropped their first home loss of the season as well as their first ASUN conference loss of the season Saturday, Jan. 22. The Lady Gamecocks fell 66-44 to the top 25 ranked Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. JSU now stands at 14-4 overall and 5-1 in conference play. FGCU sits at 17-1 overall and 6-0 in the ASUN.
With the loss, JSU still remains in possession of first place in the West Division of the league. During the game, JSU shot only 25% from the field as the FGCU defense was intensely guarding the Gamecocks. Kennedy Gavin led JSU with ten points in the contest. Kiana Johnson and Kyra Williams both added 8 points respectively. Keiara Griffin led the Gamecocks with 8 rebounds.
JSU did play some of the best defense the Eagles have faced up until this point of the season. JSU held them to the second lowest number of points scored, 66, since the only loss of the season FGCU has suffered against Princeton in which they scored 55. JSU’s defense was also able to force 18 turnovers by the Eagles but they were only able to gain 10 points out of these forced errors.
The Eagles started the game off strong with a 9-0 run and held the Gamecocks scoreless until a little over five and a half minutes remained in the opening quarter when Shawnta Shaw hit a lay up. Williams was able to connect on a three point basket that cut the Eagles’ lead to seven with under four minutes remaining in the first. The Eagles’ defense would go on to not allow but one more Gamecock score in the first quarter to lead 22-11.
FGCU was then able to open the second quarter on another 9-0 run that extended their lead over JSU to 31-11. The Gamecocks battled on defense holding the Eagles to only five points scored after the initial 9-0 run with 2:07 remaining in the first half. Kaiya Burnett was able to knock down a three pointer at this point to ease into the lead FGCU had acquired. FGCU would eventually take a 38-21 lead into the halftime intermission.
In the third period, Gavin was able to knock down a jump shot to cut the deficit to 15. After this made field goal however, the Eagles would continue to outscore the Gamecocks and would eventually gain a 24 point advantage. The score entering the final quarter was 54-32 in favor of the Eagles. FGCU would attain their largest lead of the game, 30, in the fourth quarter of the competition. Johnson was able to knock down a basket that would spark a 7-1 Gamecock run late in the game. This run was not enough as the Gamecocks’ eight game winning streak ended in the 66-44 loss.
Head coach for the Gamecocks Rick Pietri stated, “At this point they are a whole lot better than we are. While our records were the same, it didn’t reflect who the better team was. I think that unfortunately, we have gotten in a rut with these horrific starts that we’ve had. We’ve been able to climb out of them in other instances, but when you are playing a team as good as these guys you just can’t afford to dig yourself a hole like that. We dug ourselves a hole to start and couldn’t climb out of it. They were super energized. Their best player wasn’t available, and their kids rose to the occasion and frankly our kids didn’t. So, the result is what the result is. I did think that in the second half we came out with a much better defensive energy. I thought we defended a whole lot better in the second half, but we couldn’t score.”
JSU now looks to recover with a road test against the Owls of Kennesaw State. The game is another cross divisional matchup, but it is against one of the biggest rivals in the conference for the Gamecocks. The game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. tip off and will be available for streaming on ESPN+.