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Gamecocks top Cougars in OVC battle

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Jacksonville State overcame a seven-point second half deficit to score a come-from-behind 62-51 win over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in Ohio Valley Conference basketball Thursday at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

SIUE drops to 4-12 overall and 1-2 in the OVC with the loss. The Gamecocks improved to 8-11 overall and 2-2 in the OVC.

Donivine Stewart / Photo by SIUE Sports Information

Donivine Stewart / Photo by SIUE Sports Information

Cougar point guard Donivine Stewart led all scorers with 17 points, but it wasn’t enough for SIUE to overcome the Gamecocks’ 48 percent (12-25) shooting in the second half. The Cougars, meanwhile, managed to connect on just 7 of 24 (29.2 percent) in the second period.

“They adjusted against our 2-3 zone and they were making shots,” SIUE Head Coach Lennox Forrester said. “In the second half, I don’t believe we shot the ball well. Our bigs didn’t finish well inside enough. Other than Donivine, I can’t remember guys that we had making shots for us.”

Stewart was 6 of 8 from the field for the game, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range. The sophomore is averaging 16.3 points over three OVC contests.

Following a slow start, the Cougars appeared to hit their stride midway through the first half.

Jacksonville State held its largest advantage, 11 points, when a Darion Rackley layup put the Gamecocks up 17-6 with 11:19 to play before halftime. The Cougars went on a 10-0 run from that point and trimmed the JSU lead to 17-16 with Christian Salecich layup with 7:23 left.

The Gamecocks built their lead back to seven points (26-19) with 4:13 left before halftime when the Cougars heated up again. Stewart scored four straight points before a 3-pointer by Michael Messer tied the score, 26-26, with 1:33 to play before halftime. Following a defensive rebound by Messer, Stewart got an open look from three and knocked it down with 9 seconds left to push SIUE ahead 29-26 at the break.

Two Stewart 3-pointers sandwiched around a JSU three by Avery Moore gave the Cougars a 35-29 lead less than a minute into the second half. Maurice Wiltz hit one of two free throws to push the Cougar advantage to 36-29 with 18:06 left.

The SIUE lead stayed between 5-7 points when the Gamecocks made their own run. Stewart’s fourth 3-pointer of the game made it 41-36 SIUE with 13:01 left. JSU then reeled off six straight points to take its first lead of the half, 42-41, with 9:26 to play.

Following a pair of lead changes, Jacksonville State took the lead for good 44-43 with 8:22 left. The Cougars got within two (49-47) on another 3-pointer by Messer with 4:17 to play. JSU then used a 10-1 run to put the game away. Undra Mitchem hit 1 of 2 free throw attempts to make it 59-48 with 31 seconds left.

“They got tougher and made tougher shots than we did down the stretch,” Forrester said.

For the game, both teams attempted 52 shots. SIUE connected on 19, while the Gamecocks hit 23. The Cougars were 7 of 19 (36.8 percent) from 3-point range, while JSU was 6 of 20. Both teams attempted 14 free throws. SIUE was 7 of 14 (50 percent), while JSU was 9 of 14 (64.3 percent).

Salecich scored nine points in the loss and Messer finished with seven points for the Cougars.

Brian Williams led Jacksonville State with 15 points. D.J. Felder scored 14. Jamal Hunter added 11 points and hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Cougars remain on the road with a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday night at Tennessee Tech.

“We have to learn from tonight and get back after it on Saturday,” Forrester added. “We have to get one of these. We have to play 40 minutes. Tonight we didn’t play 40 minutes.”

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