Jacksonville State’s hopes of claiming a berth in the Ohio Valley Conference women’s basketball tournament hit a speed bump Monday when it lost to Morehead State 45-43. Almesha Jones’ jumper dropped through with two-tenths of a second left for the winning points.
It didn’t help either that the Gamecocks shot a pitiful 3 for 27 from the floor in the second half with what JSU coach Rick Pietri called some “reasonable looks.”
The Gamecocks (11-16, 7-7 OVC) couldn’t have clinched one of the eight tournament spots with a win Monday even though Pietri believes eight league wins would get them in, but they would have gotten real close. Now, they need some help.
They are currently in a three-way tie for the fifth seed — with two games to play — and could still be caught or passed by four teams behind them. Morehead now holds a tiebreaker on them.
“We’re not in the tournament. We’re not in,” Pietri said. “We’ve got to find a way to win another game — and it’s not going to be easy. You go on the road anywhere you’ve got problems.
“There’s not a given that we’ll win another game. What our team has to decide is this year has been a good story but is that enough?”
The Gamecocks hadn’t trailed in either of their previous two games and were up eight at halftime. But they came out of the break without their shooting touch.
The only field goals they made in the half came at 15:37, 5:55 and with 26.3 seconds left to tie the game. At one point they missed 16 shots in a row.
“Nobody could get a shot in,” Gamecocks guard Destany McLin said. “We had some great looks, just couldn’t make them. It was very, very frustrating.”
Morehead coach Tom Hodges credited putting 6-foot-2 freshman Shay Steele on McLin and double-teaming guard Kelly Naughton when McLin got the ball.
McLin and Briana Benson led JSU with 12 points each, but they had only two between them in the second half. JSU was 7-0 since Jan. 11 when Benson scored in double figures.
“I though they were physically the tougher team,” Pietri said. “I thought we were just too soft to be able to beat them today.”
After JSU guard Candace Morton’s layup tied the game 43-43, the Lady Eagles (11-15, 5-8) worked the ball to midcourt and called time with 17.7 seconds left to set up the final play.
Jones worked the clock into single digits, then drove the lane. Her initial path was choked off, but she switched hands, moved across the lane, then put up her shot. It bounced through with not enough time to get a pass inbounds.
Jones finished with a game-high 17 points.
“She was still contested when she shot the ball, it just went in,” Pietri said. “A really good player made a big-time play, made a contested basket, which is something we did not do in the second half. We didn’t make any open ones hardly and we didn’t make any contested baskets.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.