Gamecock Men Win Conference Opener
Jacksonville State hopes its 70-65 win over Tennessee Martin is a microcosm of its season
The Gamecocks erased its first half struggles and came back to open Ohio Valley Conference play with a win.
”I thought the difference in the first half ,” JSU head coach James Green said, “we started the game fairly solid on both ends of the court. And then, all of a sudden, our focus was not good. Our shots were a little bit border line. We missed layups and we missed free throws.”
Poor free throw shooting was poised to be the Gamecocks (7-9, 1-0 in the OVC) downfall after they shot 57.9 percent on 11-of-19 shooting from the line.
In the second half, however, it proved to be their saving grace. They made all 10 of their attempts, none more important than Avery Moore’s and Darion Rackley’s. Tempers began to flair as the clocked rolled under four minutes. After he fouled Rackley on a shot attempt, UTM’s Terence Smith recieved a technical foul. JSU, who was trailing by 58-57, called on Moore to shoot for the technical foul before Rackley shot for the shooting foul.
The duo was responsible for giving the Gamecocks their final lead of the game.
“It was just concentration,” Rackley said. “We know that free-throws win games. We knew we had to focus and concentrate to knock our free-throws down, especially when the game is close like this.”
Rackley finished the first half with only six points. His second half performance, however, earned him 16 more points including back-to-back 3-point shots that tied the game at 51. His second half was good enough to lead the team in scoring with 22.
“I didn’t have the best first half,” Rackley said. “My coaches got in me and told me I need to step up. So, I just took that to heart. I had to step up for my team.”
Added Green: “I told him he was better than that, in so many words, and that he just wasn’t giving it, he needed to get down in his stance, he needed to defend harder and he needed to play with a little bit more passion.”
Brian Williams added 16 points of his own to the Gamecocks’ total. five of them came in the last 1:03 thanks to a 3-pointer and a dunk almost a minute later as time expired.
The Gamecocks look to remain undefeated in conference Thursday in Nashville when they take on Belmont.