Tag: recap

Defense sparks Gamecock success


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JSU’s Gretchen Morrison guards a Murray State player in the Gamecocks’ 97-65 victory over the Racers on January 11 (photo by Katy Nowak/JSU).

Chris Allen Brown, Associate Editor

Seven. That’s how many conference games it took Rick Pietri and the 2017 Jacksonville State women’s basketball team to match its Ohio Valley Conference win total from a year ago.

But wait, there’s more.

Sporting a 12-7 record at the moment, if JSU earns two more wins during its remaining 10 games, that will allow the Gamecocks to surpass last year’s overall win total (13) and be the most since Jacksonville State went 19-10 during the 2014-15 season, which was when JSU knocked off SEC foe Alabama in Tuscaloosa 64-62 on a last-minute basket by Destiny McLin.

The common thread between the two teams is on the defensive end of the court.

At the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Pietri and his players held seven of their first eight opponents to under 60 points — Alabama being the exception — en route to 9-3 non-conference record. During OVC play, the Gamecocks held five opponents under that mark.

Fast forward to this year and the Gamecocks have held 12 of its opponents under the 60-point mark and eight of those performances resulted in victories for JSU.

There’s been a youth surge, too.

Six of 16 players listed on the roster are either true or redshirt-freshman. Ki-Ki Patterson, Gretchen Morrison, Tyler “Cocoa” Phelion and Tasha Magruder make up the senior class, while Leah Strain, Destiney Elliott, Brianna Perry and Rayven Pearson are redshirt or true juniors. Morgan Towells is the lone sophomore on the team.

Of those six freshmen, Taylor Hawks, Kiana Johnson, Jayla Walker are seeing significant playing time. Hawks, specially, has started the last 11 games for Pietri and is shooting 40 percent from the field with 50 assists to 35 turnovers and 11 steals for the year. Johnson, like Hawks, has started the last 11 JSU games and has scored in double-figures against Morehead State twice and against Murray State.

But no one player on the roster has had such a positive impact as Pearson, who has started the last 11 games. The Hazel Green native is averaging 9.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in 430 minutes of game action. She’s also blocked 22 shots, credited with 16 steals and 25 assists during the season.

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.