Tag: Mens Basketball

Men’s basketball falls short in season opener

Josie HowellSports Editor

On Tuesday, Nov 5, the Gamecocks traveled to Dallas, Texas to face off against Southern Methodist University in their season opener, and while this was anyone’s game, the Gamecocks fell behind and came up short at the end with a final score of 74-65.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball falls short in season opener”

Gamecocks deliver on expectations

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Malcolm Drumwright (21) looks for an open teammate in Jacksonville State’s 76-61 victory over Murray State on January 11, 2018 (photo by Matt Reynolds/JSU)

Daniel Mayes, Sports Editor

For the Jacksonville State men’s basketball team, things just keep getting better in year two under Coach Ray Harper.

After a run to an OVC Championship and the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth in his first season in Jacksonville, Harper set expectations high for the basketball program coming into the 2017-18 season.

So far, the Gamecocks have delivered.

Currently sporting a 15-6 overall record and a 6-2 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play, this JSU squad is proving that last year’s tournament success was no fluke.

It’s been a season of firsts so far for JSU.

On Jan. 6, the Gamecocks took down perennial OVC power Belmont in the Curb Event Center, Belmont’s home court, for the first time since the Bruins joined the OVC.

On Jan. 20, Jacksonville State defeated Eastern Kentucky on the road for the first time, having gone 0-13 previously.

The Gamecocks also beat Murray State for just the second time in program history on Jan. 11, bringing their record against the Racers to 2-20. J

SU boasts a much better record at home in 2017-18 than in the previous year, as the Gamecocks are already 9-2. The Gamecocks managed just five wins in 10 home contests last season in a road heavy schedule.

This 2017-18 squad has fit into the mold that has quickly become a hallmark of Ray Harper’s Jacksonville State units— unselfish teams that play defense.

The Gamecocks rank 28th in the entire NCAA in scoring defense, giving up just 64.9 points per game.

Anchoring the middle of the defense is Christian Cunningham, who patrols the paint for the Gamecocks, blocking 2.05 shots per game.

2017-18 newcomers Marlon Hunter and Jamall Gregory are lockdown defenders on the perimeter, helping to shut down opposing guards, creating turnovers and easy scoring chance for JSU.

Helping turn that stifling defensive effort into wins is a balanced scoring threat lead by Senior stalwart guard Malcolm Drumwright.

Drumwright is the steadying, calming force for this basketball team. Harper looks to him to get a bucket when the Gamecocks need an important bucket, and the Rancho Cucamonga, California native usually delivers.

Outside of Drumwrights 14.0 points per game, five other Gamecocks are scoring between 7-12 per game, from Cunningham’s 7.6 up to Jason Burnell’s 11.4.

Burnell, another newcomer for the 2017-18 season, has been a huge addition to this JSU squad.

The 6’7” versatile forward has been a nightmare for opposing defenses with his ability to play both forward positions, and he’s developed into JSU’s top three-point threat, nailing 41.2% of his attempts from behind the arc this season.

Heading into the last third of the season, the Jacksonville State Gamecocks are sporting a great record and tons of confidence, and now they gear up for a run at the tournament once again.

 

 

I Love Basketball: Following JSU’s run to the NCAA Tournament

Daniel Mayes, Staff Writer

I love basketball.

I am a big fan of all sports and consume sports media at a somewhat-maybe-probably unhealthy level, but something about basketball sets it apart from the others for me. However, as a 5-foot-9-inch, un-athletic student at Fyffe High School (yes, it is a real place), my basketball playing dreams led me to the frustrating experience of being just good enough to remain on the team but not quite good enough to crack the normal rotation. I stuck it out and remained on the team because I just loved being in a basketball gym everyday. Plus, I always told myself, all these long hours of practice and getting yelled at and suicide sprints will be worth it for those few games a year when my team was up by 20 in the fourth quarter (thanks Ider), and I would get to go in the game.

So, after I played (or didn’t play in) my final high school game in Jacksonville State’s own Pete Mathews Coliseum in the Regional Final, I was depressed. Not just the normal, my-team-lost-a-big-game-depressed, but basketball-is-over-and-I’ll-never-get-to-do-this-again-depressed. Which is true. I’ll never get a chance to be on a basketball team like that (barring an unforeseen late growth spurt of about a foot and a half). But, now that I’m in college at JSU, I’ve found a different way to remain around the game I love.

Coming in to my Freshman year at Jacksonville State, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college. I was the kid that always answered “Daniel Mayes, undecided” when we had to introduced ourselves on the first day of class and the professor would always be like “It’s okay, you have time to decide.” I really stressed over the decision to declare a major, and I didn’t have one until the very end of my freshman year. Sure, I could have just picked something and changed it later, but I am the type of person that wants to be really positively sure about something before I commit to something. I knew all along that I wanted to do something with my life that would keep me in close contact with sports in some context, but I just didn’t know how I wanted to accomplish that. I’ve always had somewhat of a talent for writing (I think anyway), and being the huge sports-media-nerd that I am, I began to look at sports journalism as a possible career path. I worried and debated and deliberated over the decision for a long time, but, finally, I decided on a major of communication with a concentration in digital journalism.

Not long after that, my friend Katie Cline was hired as the Editor-in-chief of The Chanticleer. She asked me if I wanted to write for the newspaper, and I agreed. In Fall 2016, I began writing sports stories for The Chanticleer. I covered football, soccer and volleyball games, but what I was looking forward to the most was covering basketball. I had been to a few men’s basketball games during the 2015-16 season, but found it tough to get excited and invested in the program with the perpetual cycle of losing the team had been under for the past few years (the team finished 8-23 last season). I had heard great things about JSU’s new coach, Ray Harper, and I had high hopes for the future of the Gamecock basketball program, but I had no idea the incredible journey the 2016-17 Jacksonville State basketball season would take me on.

The Gamecocks started the season off with 16 of their first 17 games on the road, so I didn’t get a chance to watch them much in person, but I caught them as much as I could whenever they were broadcast on TV or streamed online, and I could already tell I liked what I saw. The difference in attitude and intensity coach Harper had instilled in the team in such a short time since taking over the job was just amazing to me, and this was only reinforced when they finally returned to Pete Mathews Coliseum for some games. Because I was covering the games for The Chanticleer, I was issued a press pass and allowed to sit on press row for the games, which I thought was just ridiculously cool in and of itself. Growing up watching an absurd number of basketball games on TV, I always was envious of the people that had such access to the sport like that, and, now, here was ya boy Daniel Mayes, sitting there, getting to take games in up close and write about the sport I loved.

The Gamecocks continued to improve throughout the season, and finished out the regular season with a 17-14 record (9-7 OVC), good enough for a four seed in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, which JSU had not even qualified for since 2011-12. The Tournament was held in Nashville, and, after I was issued a credential, suddenly I was off to cover the team’s journey in the tourney. The Gamecocks opened with a win over Southeast Missouri State, but I was more in awe of the atmosphere of the whole event. I got to sit at the press table, write about the game, and even attend the postgame press conference which was still just so ridiculously cool for me.

On the next night, the Gamecocks were slated to take on regular season OVC champs Belmont in the semifinals, and, prior to the game, not many, including carefully hopeful me, gave Jacksonville State much of a chance. Belmont had finished the season with a 15-1 record in the OVC and had beaten JSU fairly handily twice. However, just like for me, the basketball season was about making what seemed possible a reality for Jacksonville State, and they took down the Bruins. Despite my supposed journalistic impartiality, I found it really difficult to stop smiling as I sat in the press room after the game listening to coach Harper describe the victory.

In the finals, Jacksonville State took on UT Martin, and, despite some lead changes early, the Gamecocks took control late in the first half and cruised to their first OVC Championship and berth in “The Big Dance,” the NCAA Tournament. As I stood on the court taking pictures as the players celebrated their victory, it did not even dawn on me yet that I might get to attend and sit at press row and cover an actual legit March Madness game.

However, (thanks to the driving of Chanticleer Sports Editor Tim Cash), I found myself in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis as the Gamecocks took on Louisville. In the NCAA Tournament. With nearly 20,000 people there. In a game that 2.4 million watched on TV because it was being broadcasted on actual CBS. Despite a 78-63 loss, I was extremely proud of Jacksonville State University. Despite being overmatched against a great Louisville squad, they came out and played their hardest and even lead 8-0 to start off the game. After the game, as I sat in the bowels of the arena in the media workroom, I found myself feeling sad. Not a my-team-lost-a-big-game-sad, but basketball-is-over-but-thankfully-I’ll-only-have-to-wait-until-next-year-to-do-this-again-sad.

The old saying is “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” I know I’m just starting out in my (hopefully long and successful) career in the field of sports journalism, but I don’t see how the experiences I have been through in the past few months could ever possibly get old or boring or tedious. I’d like to thank JSU, the basketball team, and The Chanticleer for making what was just a mere pipe dream a few short weeks ago into a reality. I know it may not seem like a big deal to some people, but for someone like me, the journey I have just been on truly was a dream come true.

Gamecocks fall to Louisville in NCAA Tournament

Daniel Mayes, Staff Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS – Despite an early 10-2 lead and a career day from Norbertas Giga, the 15-seed Jacksonville State Gamecocks came up short against 2-seeded Louisville by a score of 78-63 on Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Giga was huge on the biggest stage for the Gamecocks, pulling down nine rebounds and drilling all five of his 3-point attempts en route to a career-high 30 points.

However, JSU couldn’t overcome Louisville’s size, strength and tenacity inside.

The Cardinals pulled down 16 offensive rebounds to JSU’s four, leading to a 24-3 disparity in second chance points, and Louisville scored 44 points in the paint to Jacksonville State’s 14.

“The game was determined by our inability to rebound the ball,” JSU Coach Ray Harper said after the game. “It wasn’t because of a lack of effort. Their length and athleticism caused us some problems.”

Jacksonville State scored the first eight points of the game as the Cardinals struggled to find the basket early.

The Gamecocks held the lead until the 7:38 mark of the first half before a 3-pointer from Louisville’s Deng Adel gave the Cardinals their first lead.

The Cardinals built their lead up to 38-29 just before halftime, but a Tyrik Edwards layup just before the buzzer made it 38-31 at the break.

A cold stretch to start the second half sunk the Gamecocks’ chances to pull of the upset.

JSU scored just after the break, but the Gamecocks couldn’t find the basket again until the 14:29 mark, allowing the Cardinals to build a 15-point lead at 48-33.

Jacksonville State was able to cut the lead to nine with 6:53 left, but six quick points from Louisville boosted the lead back to 15, and JSU was unable to get it back within single digits the rest of the way.

Alongside Giga, Malcolm Drumwright scored 12 and Greg Tucker tallied 11 in his final game in a JSU uniform. Louisville held JSU senior Erik Durham to just two points on only one shot attempt.

Mangok Mathiang, led the Cardinals with 18 points, and Quentin Snider and Adel added 16 apiece.

Louisville Coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Pitino praised Jacksonville State for their effort in the loss.

“We had relentless pressure on them. They never stopped, kept staying in the game.”

Despite closing out the season with a loss, Jacksonville State heads into the offseason with some momentum.

With a 20-win season, an OVC Championship and the program’s first ever March Madness appearance under their belt, the Gamecocks set their sights on returning to the same position next March.

 

JSU’s NCAA Tourney destination set

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About 1,000 Gamecock fans were on hand at “The Pete” as JSU’s NCAA Tournament matchup was announced. (Daniel Mayes/ The Chanticleer)

Daniel Mayes, Staff Reporter

It’s set.

In their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Jacksonville State men’s basketball team will take on the Louisville Cardinals.

The OVC champion Gamecocks were named the 15-seed in the Midwest region and they will matchup with 2-seeded Louisville of the ACC in Indianapolis on Friday.

“Everyone’s excited.” JSU senior guard Greg Tucker said after the announcement. “It’s a great time to be a Gamecock.”

The team learned their tournament fate during a watch party at Pete Mathews Coliseum on Sunday.

Before the bracket was revealed, the team greeted fans in the lobby of the coliseum and signed 2017 OVC Championship commemorative posters.

The OVC Championship trophy was also available in the lobby for Gamecock fans to view and take pictures with.

The team then moved onto the court, where a projector screen was set up for the watch party.

Approximately 1,000 fans gathered in “The Pete” to cheer on Jax State as they watched the selection show, and CBS cameras were there to capture the team’s reaction.

When Jacksonville State’s seed was announced, the team, along with the crowd, stood up and cheered.

Although the NCAA Tournament is a new experience for Jacksonville State University and its players, the coaches know what to expect in the “big dance.”

“Every member of the [JSU coaching] staff has been a part of an NCAA Tournament, so we know what the experience is going to be like,” Coach Ray Harper said. “We’ve just got to stay focused on what’s important.”

Louisville, who comes into the game against JSU with a record of 24-8, were seeded fourth in the ACC Tournament, but lost to eventual ACC champion Duke in the quarterfinals.

Friday’s game between Gamecocks and Cardinals will tip at about 1:45 p.m. central time on Friday, March 17 inside Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The matchup will be televised on CBS, with Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson on the call.

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