The Gamecocks continued their rise up the conference standings with a 76-65 victory over SIU-Edwardsville at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
They sealed it when Ronnie Boggs picked SIUE guard Kris Davis’ pocket in front of press row for yet another steal and then alley-ooped to Nick Cook for a thunderous dunk and another assist.
“It gets no more fun than that,” Boggs said. “The big man has always been wanting to dunk like that, so it was fun.
“It’s always fun to win, no one likes to lose, but winning takes hard work. You’ve got to come out and work hard so you can win and have fun. It’s all part of the job. That’s what we’re here for, to play basketball and have fun.”
The Gamecocks (9-14, 4-6 OVC) extended their winning streak to three games — all against OVC teams — and passed the Cougars (5-13, 3-6) and Eastern Illinois for outright possession of eighth place, the final conference tournament spot, with six league games to play.
It’s their first three-game winning streak of any kind since December 2009 when they beat Tennessee Tech, Reinhardt and Norfolk State and their first three-game winning streak in the league since January 2006 when they took out Morehead, Austin Peay and UT Martin.
The streak coincides with the announcement of the departures of Stephen Hall (discipline) — the team’s only senior — and Frankie Bougher (personal reasons), although the signs of the team’s better play started well before that.
“When we played Tennessee State, that’s when it started,” Green said. “That was a win, it gets you going, but I think we had started to decide that we were going to focus and play, and then we just took it up a notch.
“Our backs were against the wall where we were with this team; if we were going to start making a push, it needed to be now. One of the things we asked them, maybe before we went to the Murray game, is we’ve got to learn how to have fun, and the way you have fun is stop dreading things. … I’m glad they’re having fun. I think that’s because they’re playing with the right spirit.”
The spirit moved Boggs Saturday; he filled the box score. Bouncing back from a bruised knee he sustained in the previous game’s shoot-around, the junior guard scored 11 points in 35 minutes, grabbed nine rebounds, had six steals and four assists.
He was one of five JSU players scoring in double figures, joined by Brian Williams (18), Darion Rackley (16), Cook (15) and Tarvin Gaines (10). Cook also had six rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots.
The Gamecocks were equally impressive on their hustle points that don’t go on the scoreboard. They had a 22-7 assist-to-turnover ratio — beating a 20-8 effort against EIU in 2009 for the best in the Green era — and 13 steals.
“When the scoring is spread out, most of the players are scoring in double figures and we’re all sharing the ball and controlling the ball … it’s a lot of fun,” Rackley said. “No one likes to lose. We’re just trying to play as hard as we can and keep winning.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.