JSU gets first OVC visit from Belmont
by Al Muskewitz
Jan 03, 2013 | 2516 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JSU’s Ronnie Boggs dishes off the ball against Tennessee Tech on Saturday afternoon at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
JSU’s Ronnie Boggs dishes off the ball against Tennessee Tech on Saturday afternoon at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
JACKSONVILLE — In James Green’s mind, each game is one to gauge the progress his Jacksonville State basketball team is making this season, none any more important than another.

It makes no difference if the next one is against one of the top mid-major teams in the country.

The Gamecocks face one of the biggest challenges on their level this season tonight when they entertain OVC newcomer Belmont in one of the most anticipated home games of the year.

The Gamers are 10-3 for the third time in their Division I history and are 10-0 against teams on their level and lower, but they’ve not faced a test like Belmont, which Green said will “probably be the best team who has been on our home court maybe since I’ve been here.”

The Bruins (9-4) are the preseason OVC East favorites, ranked 13th in the latest Mid-Major Poll, and shoot the 3-pointer like other teams shoot lay-ups.

Today: Belmont at Jax State, 7 p.m., 91.9 FM

“I think it can say more about what we’re capable of,” Green said, “but I’d be a little reluctant to try to judge where we are simply based on that game.

“Obviously it’s one heck of a test for our team, but at the same time depending on how the game is played will I use it to say where our program is. Probably four or five games into more of the league will tell us a little bit more where our program is because … competing in a league is not always how you do against the best or one of the best, but how you do overall.”

There are plenty of subplots to this one. Belmont is making its OVC debut after dominating the Atlantic Sun Conference.

The Gamecocks are leading the OVC East and are the league’s only 2-0 team. The last time they were 10-3 — in 2003 — they lost at Belmont.

Perhaps nothing is more intriguing than the match-up of what the teams do best.

Belmont is second in the OVC in scoring and shoots 37 percent from behind the 3-point arc. The Bruins rank 24th in the country in 3-pointers per game, and only two teams in the country (Troy and Duke) have made more since 1996.

Senior guard Ian Clark and Trevor Noack, a 6-7 senior forward, are hitting them at a .468 and .457 clip, respectively. The starting five, which accounts for most of the Bruins’ scoring, is a combined 91 of 244 from behind the arc.

JSU, meanwhile, is fourth nationally in 3-point shooting defense. The Gamecocks lead the OVC in overall scoring defense.

“My personal opinion is they shoot the 3 better than we guard the 3,” Green said. “I think they’re better at what they do than what we do, although we try and have done a decent job at guarding the 3.

“I don’t we’ve guarded a team like this where you have as many guys who can step out and make it from there. We can’t practice guarding that. We don’t have anybody who can shoot it like that.”

JSU’s opponents have hit only 24 percent of their 3-point attempts (42 of 174). The last three are a combined 5-for-27 (Nebraska was 0-for-5).

“We’ve done a fairly decent job at recognizing who’s the 3-point shooter and who’s not,” Green said. “We’ve been able to get to the line and get into those guys and try to contest shots, but also we’re limiting the number of good looks they get from there.”

Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.

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