JSU wins 14th straight against OVC West
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
Jan 09, 2014 | 1823 views |  0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — James Green can’t really explain the recent run of success his Jacksonville State basketball team has had against the West Division of the Ohio Valley Conference, and he probably doesn’t want to. He’d just like to keep it going because the longer it continues, the better chances the Gamecocks have of making it to the conference tournament.

The Gamecocks won their 14th straight game against teams from the other side of the league Thursday when they rallied to beat SIU-Edwardsville 61-52 for their sixth straight win at home.

They are the only team in the league not to lose one to the opposite division since it was divided in 2012-13.

“If you look at our side versus that other side and the fact that maybe Belmont or Eastern or even Tennessee State last year didn’t do it and we were able to do it is a little mindboggling,” Green said. “I bet there’s a number of people who won’t realize that. I knew what last year was, but to go back and then even add these two games to it, I had no idea it was that many.”

It has helped some that most of the teams in that streak haven’t exactly been the league’s best. The Gamecocks caught Austin Peay twice when it was down. The 14 teams in the run are a combined 99-184 at the time of their games, only three had winning records and nine had won five games or fewer.

Defense and the inside game won this one for the Gamecocks (8-11, 2-2 OVC), and they needed to against an SIUE team that had two 6-foot-10 players in its lineup.

The Gamecocks trailed by seven with 17:03 to play, then held the Cougars (4-12, 1-2) to 10 points for almost all of the next 17 minutes. They held the visitors to 29 percent shooting in the second half.

Playing better than he had since early in the year 6-8 Jamal Hunter had 11 points, 11 rebounds and a Division I school-record tying seven blocked shots in 35 minutes.

He missed out on two others because of a goaltending call that gave SIUE its last lead and a foul underneath late in the game. D.J. Felder, a 6-7 inside-outside forward, had 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field.

“The presence we had in the post tonight on both ends … is what won this game for us,” Green said. “When you look at the numbers, Hunter and Felder, they speak well.

“And from a defensive standpoint we were better than what we had been in terms of five guys kind of working together and being attentive out there -- and we did it pretty much without fouling.”

Green called the effort Hunter gave “absolutely outstanding.” The junior college transfer looked relaxed as he stretched on the OVC floor logo during warm-ups and it just carried over into the game.

“I got real comfortable and played how I was supposed to,” Hunter said. “The referees let us play a little bit more than usual so I was able to contest a lot more shots without getting fouls. When I realized they were going to let us play I started attacking.”

Felder provided the Gamecocks’ their big second-half spark. He had eight straight points for them in the tightest part of the game.

“I remember glimpses, but not a lot of it,” Felder said. “It was going so fast I was just worried about getting back on defense.”

You could say he got a $900 boost. Felder’s flurry came right after Andrew Bolin of Pell City hit a midcourt shot during a media timeout for three hours of free tuition. It was the first time JSU ran the promotion, sponsored by local lender and big JSU booster Larry Jackson, this season.

“It was real exciting that he hit the shot, but I was listening to the plays, so I just heard the crowd react,” Felder said.

The Gamecocks get another chance to extend their dominance over the West on Saturday when they host 4-11 Eastern Illinois.

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