Ray Harper

Jacksonville State's Jacksonville State head coach Ray Harper led his team to a win over Southeast Missouri. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

With a rather satisfied grin, Greg Seitz made his Pete Mathews Coliseum rounds Thursday. If you talked to Jacksonville State’s athletics director, chances are you heard the phrase “basketball school.”

It sure looked apt on this night.

JSU’s men and women tag-teamed Murray State to further a season that sees the men (13-5) tied for first in the Ohio Valley Conference and the women (10-6) one game behind Belmont, tied for second place. This on the heels of a season that saw the men earn their first Division I-era NCAA Tournament appearance by winning the OVC tournament

The OVC’s southern-most school, the football school, has gained basketball swagger in a basketball conference.

Most importantly, JSU fans seem to get it. A crowd of 3,004, about 500 short of The Pete’s recently remodeled capacity, saw the Murray State doubleheader, marking JSU’s biggest crowd this season by nearly a thousand fans.

It looked more like a Calhoun County high school final in JSU’s venue than a Division I-era Gamecocks game. The turnout inspired JSU men’s head coach Ray Harper to grab a microphone and thank the crowd, moments after his team finished off a 76-71 victory.

It’s good to win in any sport, most of all the sport where winning can mean a place in “March Madness.”

JSU will always have football-oriented fans, but the Bill Jones years in Division II showed they’ll turn out for winning basketball. Thursday showed those fans are remembering the reflex to help the team win, and JSU will need it against OVC co-leader Austin Peay today.

It’s good to be a basketball school … or, at least, look like one during basketball season.

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

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