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JSU women stymie Austin Peay, regain momentum headed into OVC tourney.

JSU Austin Peay Womens bball

JSU's Nekiyah Thompson dribbles past Austin Peay's Kasey Kidwell during the JSU Austin Peay OVC women's basketball game. Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State’s women reclaimed momentum Saturday and look forward to downtime ahead of this week’s Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

Yamia Johnson scored 19 points and Taylor Hawks 12, and JSU turned an early offensive surge and consistent defense into a 60-44 victory over Austin Peay in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

JSU’s victory coupled with Tennessee Tech’s 68-67 loss to Murray State on Saturday earned the Gamecocks the fourth seed headed into Thursday’s 1 p.m. tourney opener against No. 5 Tech in Evansville, Ind. The seed matches JSU’s best in Rick Pietri’s eight seasons as head coach.

The Gamecocks (15-8) also finished 12-7 in OVC play, matching the program’s best total for league wins in 18 seasons of OVC play.

The 2017-18 team won 12 OVC games and held the fourth seed as well.

More key for JSU, the Gamecocks regained momentum after falling to Murray State 78-75 on Thursday. JSU won seven of its final nine regular-season games.

“That’s a big deal, particularly because of the way that we lost the last one,” Pietri said.

JSU led Murray State by 10 points at halftime.

“We couldn’t hold up defensively on Thursday,” Pietri said. “Today, defensively, we held up, and that allows us to have a good feeling to end the regular season.”

JSU held Austin Peay (12-10, 10-8) to 31.9 percent shooting overall, 15-for-47. The Gamecocks headed into the fourth quarter with a 47-30 lead.

JSU held Austin Peay to two points through the game’s first 6:05.

“We just kept our defensive intensity, and it’s carrying over to offense,” Johnson said.

Defense travels, and that leaves JSU with a good feeling headed into the OVC tournament. The Gamecocks will also have a few days between games, something they didn’t have for most of February.

“This was our 11th game in 24 days,” Pietri said. “It’s been brutal, because of the makeups we had because of when we got shut down for COVID. We had a makeup game every week for three weeks.

“At the high-school level, that might not sound like a lot. At the Division I level (including travel), playing 11 games in 24 days is an NBA schedule.”

What to know

—Not only did JSU stymie Austin Peay defensively Saturday, but the Gamecocks started a 17-2 run and a 27-point first quarter. The Gamecocks led 27-11 at the quarter break then held Austin Peay to seven second-quarter points.

—Saturday’s game marked the final home game for three seniors. Hawks, a guard from Gainesville, Ga., added five rebounds to go with her 12 points. Jessie Day, a redshirt senior forward from Niceville, Fla., added five points and eight rebounds. Jayla Walker, a senior guard from Huntsville, had an assist in 4:58 off the bench.

Who said

—Pietri on JSU's start against Austin Peay: “Our energy out the gate, we weren't in fifth gear. We were in sixth gear. We were in a completely different gear. Our focus, our intensity, our energy, we were incredible in that first quarter.”

—Hawks on JSU’s momentum headed into the OVC tournament: “I feel like we have a chance to make a run. We can play with the top teams in the league, and I’m just excited to get down there.”

—Pietri on the OVC tournament: “We beat (top seed) Martin. We’re one of the only two teams to beat them, and they were full strength. They had their best player, Chelsey Perry, who’s the best player in the league. She’s missed some time since then. Belmont, the second best team in the league, we literally had a shot in the air as the buzzer went off. If it goes in, we win, so we’re capable. We can beat anybody that we play, but anybody can beat us, too. It’s really going to be a wide-open situation.”

Next up

—The Gamecocks play Tennessee Tech in a first-round OVC tournament game Thursday at 1 p.m.

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.