Tag: OVC Tournament

JSU hangs on to move past Tech


Jamall Gregory throws down a dunk over a Tennessee Tech defender (JSU Athletics)

Daniel Mayes, Sports Editor

EVANSVILLE, Ind.­—The journey in the tourney for the Jacksonville State men’s basketball team is officially underway.

The Gamecocks took down Tennessee Tech 73-70 in the quarterfinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, setting up a semifinal date with top seed Murray State.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game, but, again, we found a way,” Coach Ray Harper said after the game.

A sloppy opening to the game resulted in a 30-28 halftime lead for the Gamecocks largely thanks to the play of Marlon Hunter. Hunter was the only consistent offensive force in the first half, finishing the opening period with 12 points and six rebounds, four of which came on the offensive end. Hunter would tally 18 total in the game on 8-for-12 shooting.

The Gamecocks outshot Tech 41% to 28% in the first half, but the Golden Eagles used a 12-15 free throw mark—compared to JSU’s 4-6—to remain in the game.

In the second half for the Gamecocks, senior center Norbertas Giga brought the Gamecock offense to life.

The Lithuanian big man, who made national headlines earlier in the week when he reunited with his mother after five years, was held scoreless in the first half, but burst out in the second, scoring JSU’s first six points of the half en route to 15 points on 7-for-9 from the field.

Giga sparked a 7-0 Gamecock run that pushed JSU’s lead to nine at the 13:51 mark, and the Gamecocks managed to push the lead to double digits a few minutes later.

Tennessee Tech would not go quietly, however.

The Golden Eagles made it uncomfortably close for Jacksonville State late, but thanks to some timely shots, including a Jamall Gregory Sportscenter Top 10 worthy dunk over a Tennessee Tech defender, the Gamecocks held on for a 73-70 win. Gregory would also score 18 in the game, tying Hunter’s team lead.

Jacksonville State will take on Murray State in the semifinals Friday night at 6:30 p.m. The Gamecocks split the regular season series with the 24-5 Racers, taking their home contest 76-71 before falling on the road 68-60.

‘Cocoa’ leads JSU past Eagles in OVC Tourney


Daniel Mayes, Sports Editor

The drought is over.

The Jacksonville State women’s basketball team defeated Morehead State 69-56 to win their first Ohio Valley Conference Tournament game since 2014.

The last victory came four seasons ago when the Gamecocks took down Tennessee Tech to reach the semifinals. JSU missed the tournament in 2016 and 2017.

“I’m really happy for these kids and I’m really happy they got to experience a tournament victory,” Head Coach Rick Pietri said after the game. “It’s big for our program moving forward.”

The Gamecocks came out strong from the start, scoring the first eight points of the contest, including five from Tyler Phelion.

“Cocoa” was the star of the game for JSU, as the senior forward scored early and often, totaling 24 points for the game. That mark was one point shy of Phelion’s career-high of 25, giving Phelion the second-highest scoring game in OVC Tournament history. Freddricka Embry put up 25 in a 2004 loss to Eastern Kentucky.

“Cocoa was outstanding today,” said coach Pietri. “She’s saving her best for last. She’s been really good the last couple of weeks.”

Morehead state responded after the early Gamecock lead, trimming the margin to just one at 25-24 with 4:34 remaining in the first half.

Jacksonville State refused to let the Eagles take the lead, however.

Jayla Walker and Taylor Hawks hit three-pointers on back to back possesions, and then Phelion netted another two, pushing the Gamecock lead back to nine.

After Jacksonville State went into the locker room with a 35-29 lead, the two teams traded baskets in a back-and-forth third quarter.

The Eagles managed to cut the Gamecock lead to three, but JSU closed strong, and a Kiana Johnson and-one layup pushed the margin back to 10 at 49-39 just before the quarter break.

JSU used a 20-15 fourth quarter to seize control down the stretch. Chloe Long bucketed six of her 12 points in the final frame to keep the Eagles at arms length.

Long’s 12 equals a season-high for the sophomore, as she scored a dozen in the Gamecocks’ very first game this year.

The Gamecocks move on to face top-seeded Belmont in the semifinals. The Bruins finished the regular season 18-0 in the conference and took down Jacksonville State 66-35 on Feb. 21.

Jacksonville State will look to pull the upset in a 1:00 p.m. tipoff Friday.

Brown: Drumwright is the leader the Gamecocks needed

By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor

Malcolm Drumwright has been through it all during the last four years.

At a school, not only 2,000 miles away from his home in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., but also a football powerhouse trying to establish itself inside a basketball conference, Drumwright has helped do what many believe would be impossible — bring relevance to the Gamecock men’s basketball program.

The seed for success was planted years ago, though.

During the 2014-15 season, Drumwright, then a true freshman appeared in 30 of 31 games. He averaged 21.8 minutes in those 30 games. But the biggest indicator came when he started six of the final seven games. Drumwright played 34 of 40 minutes and had eight points, seven assists and four steals in a 72-70 win over conference powerhouse Belmont.

That performance carried over to the 2015-16 season, where Drumwright started 24 games before an injury halted his season. However, he scored in double figures in 18 games during the season, including a career-high 30-point game against Jacksonville University.

His teammates Erik Durham and Greg Tucker reached the same scoring mark later in the season.

Then his junior season came. That’s when Drumwright took his play for another level.

In 34 games, Drumwright averaged 12.5 points, 3.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds. He was one of three JSU players to average 30-or-more minutes a game and dished out a team-high 129 assists. He became the first Gamecock to dish out 10-or-more assists in a game when he had a 14-point, 12-assist double-double against Mississippi Valley State. He became the first Gamecock to win when Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player award when JSU knocked off UT Martin 66-55 to win its third game in four days to claim the first conference championship in men’s basketball.

Against Louisville in the NCAA Division I Tournament, Drumwright scored 12 points, dished out six assists and brought down two rebounds in 36 minutes.

His school was known. His name was known. Basketball was known.

Before the start of the 2017-18 season, Drumwright was one of two Gamecocks (Norbertas Giga the other) to be named as a preseason All-OVC player. But the accomplishments didn’t stop for the senior. He’s set the JSU Division I record for career starts and flying up the school’s Division I scoring list as quickly as his school turned into a conference title contender under head coach Ray Harper.

Through all the statistics, the scores, games won, and games lost, the thing that separates Drumwright from the rest is simple — how he handles himself.

No matter the end result of games, Drumwright has always been gracious when it comes to media availability. He’s always kept his cool and never said anything negative when a call on the court goes against him — he just walks away from the situation without saying a word.

With everything going on in today’s world, being able to know when to remain silent and not escalate a situation is key.

With Drumwright’s career in a Jacksonville State uniform coming to a close in the coming weeks, one can’t help but appreciate how much he’s done to help turn around the program and become the face and captain of a resurgence.


Editorial: Hoping Case is the biggest beneficiary of JSU’s stadium upgrade

Editorial board of The Chanticleer

Decades before Eli Jenkins and Josh Barge helped fill Burgess-Snow Stadium. Or Whitney Gillespie and Taylor West mowed down opposing batters at University Field. Even before Ray Harper returned glory to the men’s basketball program.

There was Rudy Abbott and Jacksonville State’s baseball program carrying the torch.

Abbott coached in 1,470 games from 1970 to 2000 and led the Gamecocks to 1,003 wins and posting a program-best 43-7 mark in 1979. He also led JSU to back-to-back Division II in 1990 and ’91.

The level of success was established. So, when Jim Case took the program in 2001, the expectations were set. And he hasn’t disappointed in his 16 seasons as the head coach of the Gamecocks.

As head coach at Jacksonville State, Case has accumulated over 500 career wins, 14 straight Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Championship tournaments appearances, four NCAA Division I Regional appearances and a two-time OVC Coach of the Year. The Gamecocks have never failed to make the conference’s postseason tournament and have a 64.1 winning percentage against OVC opponents under Case.

However, talk with legendary Jacksonville State radio announcer Mike Parris about one of the more remarkable things he’s witnessed surrounding the Gamecocks’ baseball program and the answer is simple — the 2014 OVC tournament.

After falling to Eastern Illinois 2-1 to start the tournament, the Gamecocks went on to become the first team in OVC history to win six-straight elimination games — knocking off SIUE (7-5), EIU (13-2), Morehead State (7-1), SEMO (6-2), Tennessee Tech (10-7) and the Golden Eagles, again, (4-2) — to win the school’s fourth conference tournament championship.   

Another statistic Parris is quick to fire off is the 23-4 record in OVC play during the 2008 season, which featured two-time OVC Player of the Year Clay Whittemore and future Major League Baseball player Todd Cunningham. It was one of three 20-win seasons for the Gamecocks in league play under Case.

In those 16 seasons, Jacksonville State has only had a sub-.500 record twice — 2002 (23-31) and 2012 (28-30). But has also coached 14 All-Americans, including Whittemore, Cunningham, Donovan Hand, Clayton Daniel, Travis Stout, Paschal Petrongolo and a guy by the name of Coty Blanchard.

So, while Burgess-Snow Stadium, which went through a $47 million expansion prior to the 2010 football season, and Pete Mathews Coliseum, which also saw a face lift this decade, are seeing a very sharp attendance increase because of the renovations, one can’t help but wonder the reaction by the veteran head coach when the $7.5 million stadium finally opens.

If the attention the Jacksonville State football and basketball teams have received as a result of the facility upgrade is an indication, then Case and the baseball team will begin to receive the respect that is long overdue. 

Dances with Gamecocks: JSU defeats UT Martin to win OVC, secure spot in NCAA Tourney


The Jacksonville State Gamecocks pose with their new OVC Championship hardware. (Daniel Mayes/TheChanticleer)

Daniel Mayes, Staff Reporter

“We left Jacksonville with one thing in mind,” Coach Ray Harper said. “We didn’t come here to play one game; we came here on a mission.”

Mission accomplished.

Jacksonville State took down UT Martin 66-55 in the Ohio Valley Tournament Final on Saturday night to secure JSU’s first OVC title and the program’s first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Harper, who took over a JSU program that went just 8-23 last season and missed out on the OVC tournament, led the team to an immediate turnaround to a 20-win season, one of the best in Jacksonville State basketball history since they moved to Division I in 1995.

“We’re trying to build something at Jacksonville State,” Harper said after the win, “and you’ve got to walk before you can run, but we decided to run a little quicker than anyone thought.”

Balanced scoring, the hallmark of this JSU team, led the Gamecocks to victory on Saturday.

Seniors Erik Durham and Greg Tucker scored 17 and 14 respectively, and Malcolm Drumwright, who was named the tournament MVP, tallied 13. Three other Gamecocks, Norbertas Giga, Tyrik Edwards and Jacara Cross, chipped in with six key points apiece.

Christian Cunningham contributed with 11 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end.

Jacksonville State and UT Martin exchanged made 3-point baskets to begin the game, as UTM’s Jacolby Mobley drained one to open scoring, but Durham answered just seconds later.

Durham’s bucket was the beginning of yet another period of hot-shooting in Nashville for the Gamecocks.

Jacksonville State knocked down six threes in the first half against the Skyhawks. The Gamecocks hit on 41.3% of their attempts from downtown throughout the tournament and made a season-high 12 in the quarterfinal win over SEMO.

UT Martin held a 7-6 lead with 13:14 remaining in the first half, but a Greg Tucker jumper gave the Gamecocks back a lead that they would not give up again.

Tucker, who was also named to the All-Tournament team, scored 14 in the opening frame to lead all scorers in the period, but was limited in the second half due to foul trouble and held scoreless.

Thanks to a 10-1 run to end the first half, which was capped by a Tyrik Edwards lay-in at the buzzer, Jacksonville State took a 36-23 lead into the locker room.

The Gamecocks struggled to score to open the second half, and after Giga drained a free throw to make the score 37-23, the Skyhawks scored eight straight points to cut the score to 37-31.

That was as close as Martin would come for the rest of the game however, as Durham finally hit JSU’s first basket of the second half with 11:43 remaining, and then Giga threw home a huge dunk to stretch the lead back to double-digits.

The Gamecocks maintained a lead the rest of the way, as they answered every Skyhawk comeback attempt with points of their own.

With under a minute remaining, Drumwright and Durham both went 2-2 on trips to the line to ice the game at 66-55.

Drumwright dribbled out the final seconds before the Gamecock celebration began.

Jacksonville State, who was the first school to officially punch their ticket into the NCAA Tournament, must now wait to find out who they will play.

The tournament bracket will be finalized on Sunday, March 12 after the conclusion of the remaining conference tournaments next weekend.

Check out video of the Gamecocks’ postgame celebration and press conference below: