Belmont had no answer for Jacksonville State sophomore Destany McLin as her fast break lay up in the waning seconds of overtime lifted the Gamecocks to a 71-69 win over the Bruins to close out the regular season on Saturday afternoon at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
The Gamecocks (12-17, 8-8 OVC) will look to carry the momentum from Saturday’s dramatic win over the Bruins (13-16, 10-6), who entered the contest vying for the OVC East Division title, to Nashville, Tenn. for the 2014 Ohio Valley Conference Women’s Tournament that begins on Wednesday. Jax State clinched the sixth seed and will play in the second game of the women’s session at 2 p.m against SIU Edwardsville. JSU topped the Cougars of SIUE, 71-68 on Jan. 13 in Jacksonville. The eight conference wins is the most since JSU claimed eight wins in league play in 2007-08. The last time the Red and White finished .500 or better in the league was after the 2004-05 league slate as that team finished 9-7.
McLin, who finished with a career-high 31 points and 25 in the second half and overtime session, gave JSU a 69-67 lead on a three-point play with 23 seconds left in overtime. After a pair of free throws by BU’s Jordyn Luffman to tie the contest for the tenth time, JSU needed McLin’s heroics again as she drove the lane on a fast break lay up with seven ticks remaining on the clock. Luffman’s last gasp at matching McLin’s bucket went for naught. The last time a Gamecock scored 30-plus points in a single contest was Brittany Wiley’s 30 point-performance at Tennessee State on Jan. 20, 2011.
JSU looked to close out the contest in regulation as it held its largest lead of the contest at 58-53 at the 3:39 on one of McLin’s 15 made baskets from the field. The Bruins’ Katie Carroll knocked down her squads final two shots – which were both three-point baskets. Her trey with 15 seconds left knotted the game at 59-all to send the game into an extra period.
The Gamecocks, who registered their first win after trailing at the halftime break, shook off its last two games shooting woes as they hit 46 percent from the field in the opening half. The Bruins held their largest lead of seven points at 25-18 with 7:24 left in the period. JSU closed the half on a 9-4 run to close the gap to 29-27 at the break. Junior Miranda Cantrell paced JSU in the opening 20 minutes, scoring all eight of her points in the first half. Cantrell also grabbed seven rebounds. Freshman Briana Benson, who scored in double figures for the ninth time in OVC play, added seven first half points before finishing with 13 points.
Jax State’s shooting was solid in the second half as they hit 53 percent from the field, while limiting BU to just 37 percent shooting. After JSU evened the contest at 37-all with 15:34 left in the game, it was a see-saw battle as neither team took a two possession lead until JSU’s five-point lead with 3:39 left in regulation.
After scoring just four points in the first half, junior guard and JSU’s leading scorer Candace Morton closed out the game with her fourth double-double of the season and the fifth in her career. The Lexington, Ky.-native will need one point in the OVC Tourney lid lifter to reach the 900 career point plateau. Her ten rebounds pushed her over the 400 career rebounds mark. Sophomore Destiny James added much-needed seven points off the bench. Jax State’s lone senior, LeCresha Horton, who was honored prior to tip off, saw action in her final game at Pete Mathews, but did not get in the scoring column.
Tickets to the tournament, which will be held at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, can be purchased through the JSU Ticket Office. The JSU-SIUE contest will be available on the Gamecock Sports Network with Mike Parris describing all the action. A live video stream will be available on the OVC Digital Network and ESPN3.