Colonels hand Jacksonville first loss in OVC

Published 12:45 pm Sunday, January 27, 2019

BEREA — The Colonels fell behind early against the Gamecocks on Thursday at the Seabury Center.

Jacksonville State opened up the game with a 7-0 run, sparked by an early three-pointer.

That early show of strength was not surprising for a team which had won seven-straight games and boasted a perfect 6-0 record in Ohio Valley Conference play.

However, it was something the Colonels were determined to end.

And they did.

After a layup from JSU’s Hunter Martin got the Gamecocks up by seven, EKU coach A.W. Hamilton called a 30-second timeout to rally his team.

They answered.

The Colonels (10-10, 3-4 OVC) went on to stun the first-place Gamecocks (14-16, 6-1 OVC) with a huge first-half offensive rally and battled their way to an 88-70 victory.

After the Colonels first timeout, senior Nick Mayo tore through Jacksonville State’s defense to get his team back on track.

The Maine native drained a three-pointer and followed it up with a free throw and a jumper to pull EKU back within three points of the Gamecocks. A three-pointer from the right wing from Lachlan Anderson’s tied the score for the first time, 11-11.

Neither team scored for more than two minutes until JSU’s Jamall Gregory regained the lead for the Gamecocks with a basket, 13-11.

Tay Weaver got EKU back in control with a three-pointer off an assist from Kelvin Robinson, who followed up with an offensive spurt of his own to get the Colonels going.

From there, it was all EKU.

“I think we played fantastic in the first half. We came out of the gates and we go on that run and the guys were just playing hard. We force 15 or 16 turnovers and had 10 steals. I was so proud of how they played — flying around and playing really hard and competing,” Hamilton said of his team’s response.

The Colonels scored 13-straight points in the following minutes to fuel a 32-4 run.

Robinson nearly single-handedly got the run started, scoring eight of the first 13.

A three-point play from the point guard made it 24-13.

A three-pointer from Mayo made it a 20-point game, 37-17, and his baseline jumper with 4:41 left in the first half capped the run and had the Colonels on top 43-17.

Cameron Carmical kept the momentum going with a three-pointer with 35 seconds left on the clock in the first half to give the Colonels their largest lead of the night — 28 points.

The Colonels blistering first half put them on top, 53-25, as the teams headed into the locker rooms at halftime.

EKU shot 53 percent from the field in the first half and hit on 7-of-16 (44 percent) of its three-point attempts. EKU turned the ball over just six times, while forcing JSU into 15 turnovers. The Colonels had a 16-4 edge in points off turnovers.

Mayo, Hamilton and Kelvin Robinson said the team was able to feed off the energy of the large crowd at the Seabury Center.

“Tay Weaver was smoking hot and our fans were great. When we got going on that run and the crowd started roaring, those turnovers became contagious (for JSU). Our fans did a great job, they really got into it,” Hamilton said.

“It was great out there,” Robinson said of the atmosphere. “We weren’t in Richmond, but our fans came and showed out for sure.”

Determined to not let their best start in school history since the Division-I era be snapped, the Gamecocks came out swinging in the second half.

“They are a good team,” Hamilton said of JSU. “We knew a 26-point lead wasn’t safe… We knew they would go on a run and they fought back.”

Jacksonville State staged a furious rally to start the second half, scoring 21 of the first 25 points, including a run of 15 straight.

Jason Burnell capped both runs with a three-pointer to get the Gamecocks within single digits, 57-48, with 14:36 to go in the game.

After a hot-shooting first half, the tides turned as the Colonels found themselves struggling to make baskets.

“We missed shots and then we missed free throws… It hurt me — it hurt my heart,” Hamilton said of the Colonels scoreless second-half stretch. “We knew they were going to go on a run. We knew every basket was going to count.”

Mayo went to the bench with his fourth foul with less than 10 minutes left to play.

EKU found its rhythm once more thanks to Carmical.

As he has in the past, the sophomore snuck past defenders and got a three-point play to put an end to the JSU run.

Jomaru Brown followed up with a three-pointer, which sparked a 13-3 run that put control back into the Colonels hands.

Weaver finished it off with a three-pointer for a 70-51 EKU lead with 10:22 remaining to play.

Tre King, who ended the game with his first career double-double, capped the night with a dunk to end the game for EKU.

“They fought back and we answered without our superstar in the game. It was good to see others stepping up and I’m so proud of the guys. Cameron came up with a huge and-1 and then we had those back-to-back threes. It was awesome,” Hamilton said.

Jacksonville State never got closer than 13 the rest of the game.

EKU shot 49 percent from the field for the game and 41 percent from long range. EKU out-rebounded JSU 41-40 and forced 20 turnovers.

Mayo led EKU with a game-best 22 points. Tre King finished with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Robinson had 17 points, seven boards and five assists.