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JSU women: Gamecocks falter late in loss to Austin Peay

Rick Pietri

Jacksonville State head coach Rick Pietri reacts during the Gamecocks' loss to Austin Peay.

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State’s women were at home against an Austin Peay team that hadn’t won in three previous conference games.

The Gamecocks led most of the second half, including a three-point edge with less than seven minutes to play.

And they lost.

Is it fair to say JSU lost an opportunity?

“That’s a tremendously fair statement,” JSU coach Rick Pietri said. “We blew it. We had opportunities. We just didn’t deliver.”

The Gamecocks (6-9, 2-2 Ohio Valley Conference) had a 50-47 lead with 6:53 to play, but couldn’t score again until a Taylor Hawks layup with 2:33 to play. After gaining that 50-47 lead, JSU went 2-for-8 from the field (both baskets were Hawks layups) and committed four turnovers.

“In the fourth quarter, we had a miserable time scoring,” Pietri said. “When you’re having a miserable time scoring, you absolutely have to lock up defensively. The difference between this team and the teams I’ve coached here in the past, it’s that the teams in the past have done a better job of locking up through our droughts. And, this team doesn’t lock up through the droughts.”

The dagger came with 1:42 to play when JSU trailed 55-54 and had the ball out of bounds. Austin Peay’s Arielle Gonzalez-Varner picked off the pass and raced down the floor with no resistance, laying it in for a basket and a three-point lead.

Austin Peay (10-5, 1-3) entered the game ranked third in the OVC in scoring with 70.5 points a game, and the Gamecocks held the Govs to more than seven points below their average. But, Austin Peay managed 10 points in the final 2:09, which was especially disappointing to Pietri.

“I’ve had a harder time with this team to completely immerse themselves in what it is we’re trying to accomplish on the defensive end — completely, whole-heartedly. When we do that, we’re pretty good defensively,” Pietri said.

A victory would’ve kept JSU within one game of the OVC lead. It also would’ve increased the Gamecocks’ win streak to three straight just as they begin their longest conference road trip of the season — Thursday at Eastern Illinois and Saturday at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

Three to know

—JSU senior Chloe Long, a 6-foot-1 forward, had her third straight game in which she rebounded in double figures. She had 16 after having two straight games of 12 each. She’s gone from averaging 5.4 rebounds a game to 7.0. She also scored five points, passed out two assists, blocked two shots and played a team-high 32 minutes.

—Jessie Day, a 6-0 junior, played 31 minutes and had eight points and three rebounds.

—Austin Peay was especially effective in two areas: drawing fouls and rebounding. The Govs had only 10 fouls while JSU committed 22. The Gamecocks’ season-high is 23. Austin Peay, fourth in the league in rebound margin, outrebounded 41-33.

Who said

—Pietri on guard Nikayah Johnson, who went down with a leg injury in the first half and didn’t return: “I don’t know how long she’ll be out.”

—Pietri on the game: “There were some really good things done today, but in the sense of a game, a lot of those things were wasted.”

What’s next

—JSU is 1-1 in the OVC at home and 1-1 on the road. The Gamecocks will travel to Eastern Illinois on Wednesday, play Thursday, then travel to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville for a Saturday game.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.