PANAMA CITY — By the end of Saturday's Panhandle Conference game against Pensacola State at the Billy Harrison Field House, Gulf Coast coach Phil Gaffney had a laundry list of grievances about his team's performance.
"We're not shooting it, we're not handling it, we're not scoring the ball," Gaffney said. "We go to overtime and scored 67, this is not what we're trying to do. But it's good enough."
It was good enough for the Commodores to get a much-needed 67-63 victory over the Pirates to level their Panhandle record at 3-3 and send Pensacola State to its fifth straight league loss without a victory.
The Commodores need a big-time rally to do it, fighting back from 12 points down in the second half and erasing a seven-point deficit with a minute remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime where Jammy Pierre-Louis hit a clutch 3-pointer and made a pair of free throws to put Gulf Coast up 67-61 with 28 seconds to play.
"That's amazing, just amazing," Gaffney said of his team's late rally. "But that's what we're capable of doing, with the defense getting us easy baskets and getting us easy shots."
Tauris Watson led Gulf Coast with 15 points, followed by Pierre-Louis with 11 points, with Alex Matthews adding nine points and Simeon German eight points and 12 rebounds.
The Commodores will get a week before getting back into action on Saturday at home against Tallahassee.
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Coastal Chaos is alive and well
Gulf Coast didn't have a lot going for much of Saturday's game, Offensively, the Commodores shot just 39 percent from the field and 61 percent from the foul line. Defensively, they allowed the Pirates to shoot 61 percent in a first half that finished with a 15-3 Pensacola State run.
One thing the Commodores were able to rely on was their patented press, which forced 12 turnovers in the second half, including three in the last minute of regulation. A steal led to a three-point play by by Tauris Watson that cut the deficit to two at 59-57, with a traveling violation on Pensacola State setting up German's tying basket with 20 seconds left, and Chase Forte drawing a charge on the Pirates' last possession of regulation.
When nothing else was working, it was 'Coastal Chaos' that saved the day for Gulf Coast.
"There's no question," Gaffney said. "It was better than our halfcourt (offense) and that's what got us the points. It got us the ball and the fastbreak points. Even when they broke the pressure Simeon was there and was blocking shots and getting rebounds and then it was going the other way. We made (the Pirates) play faster because they're better when they're slowing it down and taking their time, so we had to take them out of what they do."
Offense must improve
While the win was important and the comeback impressive, the Commodores continued to be plagued by offensive inconsistency and prolonged scoring droughts that very nearly cost them a win.
There was an eight-minute stretch of the first half in which Gulf Coast scored just three points that allowed Pensacola State to turn a five-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
After trimming the margin back to one at 47-46 with 8:40 to play, the Commodores scored just four points over the next seven minutes to go back down by seven and to the brink of defeat.
The ongoing free throw struggles certainly didn't help, with Gulf Coast going 8 of 13 on Saturday. The Commodores are shooting 49 percent from the stripe over the last three conference games. Suffice it to say, there's plenty for Gaffney and his players to work on during the off week.
"We were horrible but better than we've been," Gaffney said. "We were 9 of 25 (from three) and that may have been our best shooting day and that stinks, it's just average. At some point we've just got to do a better job. If we're not gonna shoot it and we're not gonna shoot free throws well or get to the free throw line we've got to do something else. We've just got to get better.
"But we still found a way to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. We're very blessed to win this game, so now let's build on this."
An extremely welcome week off
Few teams will be as happy to have a week off as the Commodores will be for the six days between this game and the next following a four games in seven days stretch that came on the heels of a team-wide bout with COVID and the loss of starting power forward Tay Hall to injury.
Gulf Coast will now have a chance to rest, get healthy, and participate in full practices for the first time in over a week, all of which Gaffney said are top priorities for his team.
"It's all three," he said. "That's the great thing, we need the rest because we're tired and the recovering from injuries because they're all beat up and hurt, but we also need the practice time because we have to get better, so there's got to be a balance. We haven't been able to practice in over a week. We've been going every other day and shooting around, so having the four games from Saturday to Saturday, we're tired and beat up. We'll just use the time to rest and try to get better."
This article originally appeared on The News Herald: COLLEGE BASKETBALL: 3 takeaways from Gulf Coast's OT comeback win over Pensacola