KSU falls late to Jacksonville State

·3 min read

Jan. 28—KENNESAW — When a team is learning how to win, there are going to be painful lessons.

Kennesaw State learned Thursday that no matter how much momentum a team has, and no matter how well it performs, sometimes it's just not enough.

That was the case against Jacksonville State as the Owls lost 70-64 at the KSU Convocation Center.

The Gamecocks (14-6, 7-0 ASUN West) won their ninth game in a row, using a 10-1 run over the last few minutes to overcome the Owls (9-10, 4-2 ASUN East) and break their four-game home winning streak.

"I told the guys after the game, we've been waiting 2 1/2 years to play in a game like that," Kennesaw State coach Amir Abdur-Rahim said. "You look at both teams offensively, it's as even as you get. The difference was with the offensive rebounds and the second-chance points. That's the difference in the game.

"But that's a heck of a team over there. They are older. Those guys have been around. They are physical and well-coached. We aren't hanging our heads one bit after that game."

All night, it seemed as if Jacksonville State, which set new program records and its best conference start with its ninth straight win, was one possession away from going on a deciding run. The Gamecocks used a significant size advantage and played a more physical game, but the Owls found a way to answer every big basket that was made.

Kennesaw State also found a way to take advantage of the one area where Jacksonville State struggled.

An inability to extend the lead because of the Gamecocks' bad free-throw shooting (6-of-18 for the game), allowed the Owls to hang around, and when Jamir Moultrie connected on a 3-pointer with 4:03 to play, they had their biggest lead of the night at 63-60.

A jumper by Jacksonville State's Jalen Finch cut the lead to one. Then, after Moultrie — who was 4-of-5 on 3s for his 12 points — missed his one long-range attempt, the Gamecocks' Darrien Adams made a 3 on the other end to give them the lead for good.

Adams made seven of Jacksonville State's 12 3-pointers on the night and finished with a game-high 22 points.

Kennesaw State was held without a field goal over the last 3:40, and it made the mistakes it had avoided. Twice on what appeared to be potential clear drives to the basket, the Owls instead tried to make a pass to a man in the corner for a 3-pointer. Both passes were intercepted and turned into points on the other end.

In addition, Kennesaw State gave up a couple of untimely offensive rebounds that allowed Jacksonville State to keep possessions alive.

"They finished with 14 offensive rebounds and had 16 second-chance points," Abdur-Rahim said. "That was the difference in the game."

Jacksonville State tried to take the boisterous crowd of more than 1,500 out of the game early by jumping to an 11-4 lead, but Chris Youngblood scored eight of his 19 points during an answering run. When Isaiah Reddish connected on a 3-pointer with 6:39 to play in the half, Kennesaw State had its first lead of the night, 24-23.

Jacksonville State led 36-31 at the half and was up 45-39 when Kennesaw State went on an 11-4 run, highlighted by seven points by Youngblood, to take a 50-49 lead with 9:26 to play.

The game, which had six ties and 10 lead changes, see-sawed back and forth over the next 6 minutes until the Gamecocks took control late.

Demaree King finished with 17 points and Brandon Huffman had 11 for Jacksonville State.

Terrell Burden had 16 points and Demond Robinson added 13 for Kennesaw State, which will not be able to dwell on the missed opportunity long, with only one day to rest before hosting face North Alabama on Saturday.