Coach Annette Watts is confident her Gamecocks will reach the OVC Tournament, but she also understands they’re running out of time and games to get it done. She figures the team needs to get four very specific wins in its final seven games to make it happen.
A good showing tonight against SIU-Edwardsville would be a good start.
The Gamecocks (4-18, 1-8 OVC) are on the bottom of the OVC standings, but they’re only one game out of the eighth playoff spot and hold the tiebreaker on the team that currently holds it (Austin Peay). SIUE (11-8, 5-3) is currently tied for third, and although their games count toward the OVC standings and tiebreakers, the Cougars aren’t eligible for the conference tournament.
JSU’s loss Saturday to league-leading Eastern Illinois opened a stretch of four games against the current top four teams in the standings. The make-or-break stretch, however, comes against the four teams with overall losing records the Gamecocks play in February.
“We’re playing top teams in the league right now, we’re going to have an opportunity to still get in this thing if we can just keep holding it together,” Watts said. “We’ve got to win down this road here. We need to get (Tennessee) Tech (at home Feb. 4). We need to get Morehead (away Feb. 13). We need to get Tennessee State (away Feb. 18). We need to get Southeast Missouri (home Feb. 23). If we win those four, we’ve got a chance.”
The Gamecocks lost to SIUE 79-39 on New Year’s Eve. They fell way behind early in that game and never recovered. They shot only 18 percent in the first half and committed a total of 25 turnovers off which SIUE converted into 35 points.
Watts said the Cougars not being eligible for the conference tournament will not be a factor when her team considers the game.
“They’re a conference team, by gosh, go play them,” Watts said. “They beat you by 40 at their place, get on with it. You made them look a whole lot better than they are … because we did.”
The Gamecocks have lost three in a row. The Cougars have won three of their last four, beating three of the four teams on JSU’s down-the-stretch hit list.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.