If you wanted to know just how big it was, check out the list of VIPs in the dressing room after the game.
JSU president Bill Meehan and two major university benefactors were among the folks who offered congratulations to the Gamecocks and presented new coach Rick Pietri with the game ball commemorating his first win with the program.
“What I explained to our players is this just shows you how much people care,” Pietri said. “Sometimes they can get caught up in their own world and not really understand how many people actually care about how they’re doing and what they do.
“At South Alabama, I won two conference championships, and our president didn’t say ‘boo’ to me or my players. I explained to them what just happened here doesn’t happen, so you guys need to understand how invested other people are in your success and hopefully that will raise their own level of success to understand the community cares.”
The Gamecocks (1-3), who had won only twice in their previous 51 games, didn’t get their first win last season until the next to last game of the season. In this one, they were dominant for a long time.
They led by 16 at halftime and by as many as 28. They shot at a 50-percent clip most of the game and handled the ball well. They had 17 assists among their 29 baskets and were charged with only nine turnovers.
Meanwhile, they forced Kennesaw (1-4) into 21 turnovers off which they scored 24 points. At one point in the second half, they outscored the Owls 22-0 on points off turnovers.
“Overall, I think our kids are understanding what we’re trying to do defensively and they’re buying in to the offensive end,” Pietri said. “When you have a greater belief in what you’re doing you get more invested in what you’re doing and yields to a chance to be more successful.
“What we have to be able to do now is be able to handle this success well and build on it and progress with it.”
Miranda Cantrell led the Gamecocks with 19 points and 11 rebounds, her third double-double in four games. Bria’unna Buckner had 15 points – two off her career high -- on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Candace Morton had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Kelly Naughton had eight points and six assists.
Sophomore guard Destiny McLin, cleared Monday and playing her first game back from an arm injury, had seven points.
“This is just the beginning for us,” Buckner said. “We’ve been working really hard, so honestly this is one of the first of many.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.