JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State's women's basketball team leads the Ohio Valley Conference in defense for the fifth straight year, and that was on full display Saturday afternoon.
The Gamecocks gave up only 51 points Saturday afternoon, which is about six points below their average. But, JSU's struggling offense hit a low mark, scoring only 47 points in a four-point loss to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
It got especially bad when it counted most in the second half. The Gamecocks made only one basket in the final 13 minutes. They went on an eight-minute scoreless drought when they watched a 42-32 lead turn into a 45-42 deficit. After a Yamia Johnson broke the string with a 3-pointer with 5:05 to play, JSU managed only four free throws the rest of the way.
It left head coach Rick Pietri at a loss for how to fix the issue, which has been a problem for JSU all season.
The Gamecocks rank next-to-last in the OVC in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage — ahead of only winless Tennessee State. They're last in free throw percentage.
"I've coached teams that have struggled shooting, but it's been a long time since I've coached a team that has struggled shooting like this one has," Pietri said afterward.
Johnson, an outside ace, made only one of eight 3-point attempts. Destiney Elliott was 4-of-15 from the field. Taylor Hawks made one of five treys. JuToreyia Willis, a long-range threat off the bench, made one of six.
That left SIUE with the benefit of sagging in on JSU post player Rayven Pearson, who finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.
"They gave us multiple opportunities outside, and we didn't make them," Pietri said. "So you say, 'No problem, we'll go inside,' but you can't go inside because they're crowding you because you can't shoot it.
"Sure, it sounds logical: stop shooting and go inside. But the problem is there's no inside to go to."
What to know
—Point guard Taylor Hawks led JSU with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists, but she missed two free throws with 23 seconds left and the Gamecocks down 49-47.
—JSU missed a chance to go 3-1 in the OVC for the second straight year and only the third time since joining the league in 2003.
—The Gamecocks made six 3-pointers, which matches how many they made in Thursday's 78-49 win over Eastern Illinois. In that game, JSU attempted only 17, with all the made shots coming in the third quarter. On Saturday, JSU attempted 35 from behind the arc.
—Pietri on blowing an opportunity to go 3-1 in the league: "It's incredibly disappointing. We could've been in second place in our league, but moving forward, nothing's going to chance until we make some shots."
—Pietri on how missing so many shots drains the players: "When you're constantly missing — constantly — there's a little edge that taken off your defense. There's a little edge because you get no momentum. You get no adrenaline. You're just functioning on habit. Sometimes you need the ball to go in the basket to feel good about yourself."
—Jacksonville State (8-7, 2-2 OVC) will host defending league champion Belmont (10-5, 3-1), which is coming off a 69-43 win over Eastern Kentucky. Tipoff is set for 5:15 p.m.