After hammering Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 86-42 at home Saturday, the Jacksonville State women's team made sure to celebrate a difference maker.
With senior Jessie Day leading the charge, the Gamecocks ran down to where the JSU pep band sits behind the visiting team's basket and thanked them.
A rowdy, energetic group, this band is something to watch whether they're playing their instruments, cheering loudly for the Gamecocks, or razzing the opposing team. Meanwhile, behind the home basket on the other end of the court, there are the raucous JSU cheerleaders, who don't let the players forget they're there, as well.
Day certainly didn't. After greeting the band, she ran to the cheerleaders' side of the court and thanked them, too.
"They're so supportive from the tip to the end," Day said. "They're acting crazy in the stands for us, and I feel like that's a really good atmosphere to play in. They're always on the visiting team and getting in their heads. I honestly think that plays a part in it."
Saturday marked the Gamecocks' 10th straight home win, which includes the final home game of last season and all nine at Pete Mathews Coliseum this year. That's the longest win streak in the women's basketball program's Division I history.
If you want to give some of the credit for that to the pep band, you'll have JSU coach Rick Pietri's approval.
"There is no doubt that the band here has an impact on what we're doing," said Pietri, whose team is now 11-6, including 8-5 in the OVC. "There's no doubt. Whenever anybody participates in any physical endeavour, it's nice to have an audience. When we have an audience that's as spirited as our band, it helps."
Pietri said he likes that the band members do more than just play.
"Not only are they brilliant musicians — and they're brilliant musicians — they're incredibly spirited, and they're into the game.
"They participate in the game, and it matters. This building, it's a tight building. So you get 50 people making noise, it's a lot of noise. That noise is uplifting."
On Saturday, JSU gave the band and the crowd of 413 plenty of reason to cheer. After a fairly tight first quarter in which the Gamecocks built a 13-9 lead, JSU's Imari Martin opened the second period with two straight 3-pointers, and it was never close after that.
In the fourth quarter, JSU never led by fewer than 35 points. The Gamecocks built the lead to 46 at one point before SIUE fought back to within 41. But, even in the traditional garbage time when everyone gets to play, JSU rolled.
"I can't not feel good about what happened today," Pietri said. "Coaches a lot of times, they want to nitpick and see something to complain about, and I can certainly do that, but in terms of the total picture, there's nothing as a coach I can complain about."
What to know
—Pietri scored his 115th win at Jacksonville State, tying him with Dana Austin for the most in JSU women's basketball history. Pietri is in his eighth season. Austin coached JSU from 1993-2003.
—Martin has struggled at times this season, but she was on Saturday, finishing with a career-high 21 points as she hit six 3-pointers in 10 tries. She has hit 41.4 percent of her 3-pointers at home and 17.1 percent on the road.
—Kennedy Gavin came off the bench and had 14 points and nine rebounds. The points are a career high, and the rebounds were one off another career best.
—Keiara Griffin, a freshman who has started all but one game this year, finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
—Martin on why she had her big day: "It was my teammates getting me the ball. They saw I was hitting, and they were getting me the ball."
—Pietri on facing an SIUE team that's down and is now 6-14, including 3-12 in the OVC: "It was imperative that our kids approach the game the right way. When you scoreboard watch as most players do, and you look as see that this team we played lost by 39 on Thursday night, and you look at their record, which isn't great, there's a tendency for players to approach the game casually and set themselves up for failure. That's not what happened."
—JSU will host Eastern Kentucky on Monday at 5:30 p.m.