Jacksonville State to play Auburn in first round of NCAA Tournament

Photo courtesy of JSU Athletics

Thomas Ashworth, Sports Editor

The Jacksonville State Gamecocks will take on the number two seeded Auburn Tigers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina on Friday, March 18. 

“Everybody doesn’t get to see their name called in March Madness,” said Darian Adams. “We were happy no matter who we played and, like I said, we’re going to be ready to play and it just feels good to still be playing. Some people are at home and we’re allowed to keep playing through the month of March and possibly April.”

This is the second time Jacksonville State will head to the NCAA Tournament under Ray Harper, winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in 2017. Jacksonville State fell to Louisville in the first round, 78-63.

After Bellarmine won the ASUN Conference Tournament Championship, Jacksonville State earned the ASUN Conference’s automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament due to Bellarmine’s ineligibility.

“I know for a fact we were the best team in the ASUN,” said Jalen Gibbs when asked about Bellarmine’s ineligibility for the NCAA Tournament. “They put us in the tournament, they’re letting us play, so we’re going to compete.”

Jacksonville State finished the regular season 13-3 in conference play and boasted a 21-10 overall record. Auburn will be their second SEC opponent this season, as the Gamecocks took on sixth-ranked Alabama in December, falling 59-65 in Tuscaloosa.

“One thing about us, we never give up no matter who we’re playing,” said Kayne Henry. “We play hard no matter what. Chemistry on and off the court is nothing like I’ve ever seen before. We always stick together.”

“We’re about right where I thought we’d be,” said head coach Ray Harper. “I thought we’d play either Auburn or Kentucky, to be honest with you.”

Harper noted that his team was very versatile and was confident in his team’s strengths going into Friday’s matchup against the Tigers.

“We’re blessed with some size and some depth, we can play big, we can play small, I think we can play slow or we can play fast,” said Harper. “We’re going to be on top of our game come next Friday.”

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