Sports, Thrill of Victory

OVC Tournament Quarterfinal Recap: Jacksonville State cruises past SEMO

Jacksonville State Gamecocks guard Christian Cunningham (31) and Southeast Missouri State Redhawks Denzel Mahoney (34) fight for a loose ball in the first half of a quarterfinal matchup in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY/ICON PRESSWIRE

Blake Lovell also contributed to this story.

The Jacksonville State Gamecocks faced the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (SEMO) in the quarterfinals of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on Thursday night at Municipal Auditorium.

Although SEMO beat Tennessee State one night prior in a 78-75 overtime thriller, their tournament run came to an end, with Jacksonville State winning readily by a final score of 74-51.

“Just proud of our guys,” said Jacksonville State head coach Ray Harper. “We talked about at the half we felt like offensively in the first half we weren’t making the extra pass.

“We were taking some pretty good shots when we could’ve made one more pass and got great shots. And then in the second half we started making the extra pass, we started playing together. ”

Through the first twenty minutes of play the matchup was back-and-forth. In fact, at the halftime buzzer, Jacksonville State held only a four-point lead over SEMO (31-27), and although both teams were attacking different areas of the court — Jacksonville State the perimeter, SEMO the interior — there was no clear front-runner.

Four minutes into the second half, Jacksonville State shifted the game heavily in its favor.

Behind senior guard Greg Tucker and junior guard Malcolm Drumwright, the Gamecocks went on a 12-0 run that extended their lead to 15-points at 47-32. SEMO’s junior guard Daniel Simmons finally ended the Gamecocks’ run with a three-pointer at 13:07.

Facing a 12-point deficit with 13 minutes remaining, SEMO tried to crawl back into the game by attempting numerous threes. But they never caught up. The Redhawks were unable to bring the game within 10-points for the remainder of the game.

All efforts made by SEMO’s guard and OVC freshman of the year Denzel Mahoney, who finished the game with a team-high 20 points, were quickly negated by Jacksonville State’s offensive duo of Drumwright and Erik Dunham.

“We’re very unselfish,” said Durham after the game. “We like to get each other open and when we see someone else make a shot it’s like we made it.”

“We’re just pulling for each other and we got each others’ backs out there…it’s that time of year. I’m just ready to get out there and play, guard whoever I have to guard, whatever I have to do to help this team win.”

Jacksonville State now advances to the semifinals of the tournament to face the top-seeded Belmont Bruins on Friday evening.

It is Jacksonville State’s first OVC tournament semifinal appearance since 2006.

Meanwhile, SEMO finishes its season at 15-18 overall.

“This should be fuel to our fire in the off-season,” said SEMO head coach Rick Ray.

“Every time you need one more rep on the bench press, or you need one more sprint, you can go back to this Jacksonville State game and use this as motivation.”

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