Bucker hit three treys in the first half to help the Jacksonville State women open a lead they carried to a 73-63 victory over South Carolina State.
Buckner was one of four JSU players with 11 points as the Gamecocks (3-9) snapped a six-game losing streak in their final game before their Christmas break. They don’t play again until opening their Ohio Valley Conference schedule Dec. 28 at Tennessee Tech.
“It felt really good to finally knocked some down,” said Buckner, 0-for-7 from behind the arc in Tuesday’s loss to Mercer and 4-for-21 in her previous seven games. “I definitely prayed before this game, so God came through for me on this.”
The junior guard from Detroit entered the game at the third media timeout with JSU down 20-18. She promptly hit two 3-pointers to key a 10-0 run that put the Gamecocks up for good. Starters Gia Banks, Miranda Cantrell and Candace Morton also scored 11 points for the winners.
The win, their first since Nov. 23, allowed the Gamecocks to salvage a game on their four-game home stand. It also helped coach Rick Pietri avoid his longest losing streak as a college coach.
Pietri lost the final five games of the 2001-02 season and the 2002-03 opener while at South Alabama. He snapped that streak, coincidentally, against Jacksonville State.
The Gamecocks tied their season high with seven 3-pointers, made sharp passes against the Lady Bulldogs’ zone to record a season-high 19 assists and won the battle of the boards. About the only bad thing they did was shoot free throws (16 of 28), but made them down the stretch when they counted most.
“In the 48 hours between our prior game and tonight we really got refocused on some of the important thngs we need to pay attention to, and some of it not basketball related,” Pietri said. “Some of it just almost spiritual and emotional, just being more together in how we do things.
“We showed a lot of positivity within our team. We were good teammates for each other tonight and that stuff matters, particularly when you’re going through difficult times.”
The Gamecocks never trailed after Buckner’s 3-point broke a 20-all tie with 5:44 left in the first half and led by 13 with 3:57 to go in the game. It looked as if they would collapse under the pressure like they did against Mercer on Tuesday, as State closed to within five, but they closed it out by scoring the next eight points.
“To know we can do it really means a lot,” Cantrell said. “We were holding ourselves back in those other games. Tonight the energy was different. Everything changed from (Pietri’s) last talk to us to what we showed today. It amped everybody up and gave us the energy we needed to finish out the game. It feels great to go home to the holidays with a win.”
S.C. State’s Cabriel Duren led all scorers with 20 points. The Lady Bulldogs are 1-7.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-5377.