For the longest time Tuesday Jacksonville State looked like it might finally win one here, but the Gamecocks couldn’t make enough plays to turn their fortunes and lost to Tennessee State 69-64 in overtime at the Gentry Center.
“It hurts, any loss hurts,” junior guard Ronnie Boggs said. “It hurts a lot more when you know you had the game in your hand.
“We’re on their home court and we had a lead … but when you’re on someone else’s court you have to make more plays than they do so you can win the game, and that’s really what it was.”
The Gamecocks (11-17, 6-8 OVC) hadn’t won in this building since they joined the OVC in 2003 and had lost nine straight in this city, but they had a 10-point lead in the first half, a four-point lead inside the final two minutes of regulation and a three-point lead with 90 seconds left in overtime.
Ultimately, they gave up too many 3-pointers to Tigers junior forward Robert Covington and didn’t play smart enough at the most crucial times to close out the game.
The consistent Covington hit 4 of 5 3-pointers, including two big ones in the final four minutes of regulation, and finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds. It was his league-leading eighth double-double of the season.
The Gamecocks got 11 points and 10 rebounds from Nick Cook, 10 points and 10 rebounds from Boggs and a team-high 14 points from Brian Williams. Boggs and Williams were absolutely spent when it was over, having played 45 and 44 minutes, respectively.
“That was the most intense game we played all year besides (the last-second win at) Tennessee Tech,” Cook said.
The Gamecocks used a 14-1 run in the first half to open a 10-point lead and held it until Covington’s 3-pointer with 3:25 left in regulation gave the Tigers their first lead since 11-8 at 53-51.
But the Gamecocks got big plays from Williams and Cook — the only two players left from last year’s team — to produce six straight points and a 57-53 lead with 1:44 left in regulation.
In that exchange, Cook’s put back tied the game at 53, Williams hit a jumper to put JSU ahead, then Williams drove the length of the floor after Cook blocked a shot.
Another Covington 3-pointer tied the game with 34.6 seconds left. Williams had the last shot in regulation but his 3-pointer hit the rim.
Mason Leggett’s only basket of the game — a 3-pointer — gave JSU a 64-62 lead with 1:38 left in overtime, but it was the last lead the Gamecocks could enjoy.
TSU senior guard Wil Peters scored the last seven points of the game. His 3-pointer put the Tigers (18-10, 11-4) ahead for good, then he hit four free throws down the stretch.
The Gamecocks’ final five possessions of the game were a turnover and four missed 3-pointers, one after TSU bricked two free throws with 20 seconds left to keep it a three-point game.
“We should have been able to get that game in the end of regulation,” JSU coach James Green said.
“We would have had a better chance then than in the overtime. Not that we weren’t going to try to win it in the overtime, but I thought the momentum was more with us in regulation than it was ever in overtime.
“We never really had that feel that we had it under control because we couldn’t get stops.”
The win was TSU’s eighth in a row. The Tigers are 10-1 since losing to JSU on Jan. 7. With a Murray win over Southeast Missouri tonight, they will clinch the second seed in the OVC Tournament and draw a bye all the way to the semifinals.
The Gamecocks still hold the eighth spot, but they’ll need a little more help to get in the field.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.