JACKSONVILLE — The Jacksonville State women’s basketball team gave a splendid 40-minute effort Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, their Ohio Valley Conference game against Tennessee-Martin lasted 45, including the five-minute overtime period.
After tying it with a surprising 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation, Tennessee-Martin rolled through the extra period to down JSU 61-57.
The Gamecocks were looking for their first win over the Skyhawks since 2010. Their losing streak in the series reached 10 straight. With the 18-game league schedule halfway finished now, JSU (12-8, 6-3) is tied with Morehead State for third place, while the Tennessee-Martin (9-12, 5-4) is tied for fifth with Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri.
“We haven’t had a lot of games come down to the end, down to one possession,” a tired Rick Pietri, the JSU coach, said afterward in his office. “We didn’t handle the overtime well.”
In a close, defensive struggle for all of regulation, the Gamecocks moved into the lead about halfway through the third period and held it until two seconds left in regulation. JSU guard Morgan Towells hit two foul shots with 10.1 seconds left for a 49-46 advantage.
Tennessee-Martin’s best 3-point shooter, Kendall Spray, couldn’t get open. Another long-range shooter, Emanya Robertson, had the ball but couldn’t shake the JSU defense. She was forced to toss it to 6-foot-0 senior post player Janekia Mason, who had made only one 3-pointer out of 15 tries all year.
She promptly buried a trey from the left wing make it 49-49, with the ball touching nothing but net.. JSU couldn’t get off a final shot, and in overtime, Tennessee-Martin ruled.
The Skyhawks had seven possessions in the extra period and scored on six of them. They made four baskets after sinking only five in the whole second half.
“Momentum is real in basketball,” Pietri said. “They hit a 3-pointer that was a dagger, and that uplifted their team, and now you’re dealing with a different energy level. They had a little higher energy level than us, and that’s all it needed to be.”
Even with the struggles in overtime, Pietri had no complaints about his team’s defense. Tennessee-Martin entered with an average of 73.1 points a game against conference opponents. That’s second in the league. JSU held the Skyhawks to 49 points in regulation.
“We can’t ask our players to do much more than that defensively,” Pietri said. “We just need to find someone to convert offensively at a reasonable rate. We don’t have that.”
Towells finished with a team-high 11 points off the bench, but she sank only 3 of 10 shots. Senior guard Gretchen Morrison had nine points by making 3 of 6, with all of her shots coming from 3-point range. But she fouled out with 1:23 left in regulation, as she got Spray, whom she spent much of the game guarding.
Tyler Phelion added eight points. Chloe Long had a team-high 14 rebounds and four points while playing a team-high 33 minutes.
Spray finished with 25 points, while Mason had 13 and Robertson 11.