College basketball: JSU men face tough road to OVC tourney
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
Feb 11, 2014 | 1987 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville State coach James Green has seen his team lost three straight heading into Saturday’s home game against Morehead State. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Jacksonville State coach James Green has seen his team lost three straight heading into Saturday’s home game against Morehead State. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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Jacksonville State basketball coach James Green says his team faces a “really tough” road to make the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, and individual motivation will be the key to making it happen.

The Gamecocks (10-16, 4-7 OVC) are tied for the ninth seed, a half-game out of the eighth and final tournament qualifying spot with five games left in the regular season. None of the games are considered guaranteed, and four are against the teams in front of them in the East Division.

“If we’re going to make the tournament we’re going to have to win three or four more games,” Green said Tuesday. “Our backs are kind of against the wall. We all have to do some soul-searching here to see what we can bring to the table.”

The Gamecocks (10-16, 4-7) are currently tied with Southeast Missouri, a half-game behind Austin Peay. They beat Austin Peay on the road last month to gain a tiebreaker edge in that series and play SEMO next week.

The Gamecocks missed the OVC tournament last year despite having a team good enough to qualify. They weren’t allowed to play in the event because of academic progress sanctions, but they hoped to use that as motivation for this season. With a heavy influx of newcomers, they haven’t enjoyed the same success.

They suffered a devastating home loss Saturday against Tennessee Tech, which has a win over East-leading Belmont. Earlier losses to Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State have hurt their chances as well.

The Gamecocks have lost three straight and four of their last five. Most of their problems throughout the season have been tied to linking their play to success shooting the ball as opposed to the defense and rebounding, which has been Green cornerstones. They’ve also gotten inconsistent support for stalwarts Brian Williams and Darion Rackley, who themselves have lacked consistency.

The Gamecocks return to Tech on Feb. 22 for a game that now becomes a must-win. They also have home games with Morehead State (Thursday), Eastern Kentucky and Belmont. All three have won at least seven league games this season, are a combined 11-2 within the East and 11-5 on the road in the league.

“I think most people in our situation with anywhere from three to five wins at this point (will find) it is very difficult,” Green said. “Your schedule remaining has some impact on it, but for a lot of teams in this position it depends on how motivated they are and how much they believe they have the ability to go out and still compete to give themselves a chance to win.

“When you play a team in a similar position you are, they have the same motivation. If we can get ourselves to a point we’re believing and understanding what it takes for us to have a chance and get enough from each of our guys we can give ourselves a chance to win. We’ve just got to band ourselves together and play for each other.”

Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577. Twitter: @almusky_star.
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