The Gamecocks lost to the Central Arkansas Sugar Bears 58-54.
They struggled out of the gate and couldn’t pull it out at the end. The middle was pretty good, but it too had some shortcomings that in a close game statistically proved the difference in not extending their longest winning streak in six years and being at .500 for the first time in three.
“We were not sharp early on either end of the floor and it resulted in us spotting them a 10-point lead,” first-year coach Rick Pietri said. “We have to understand being wired in the right way from the tip is essential every time.
“We’ve got make sure we’re sharp, attentive and alert the full 40. Nobody plays a perfect full 40, at any level of basketball. You know you’re going to make some mistakes, but you have to minimize them. If we don’t make those pivotal mistakes in the middle, then what happens at the end is entirely different.”
The Gamecocks (2-4) missed their first 11 shots and fell behind 10-0 in the opening seven and a half minutes of the game. But they rallied to get within two at halftime, led twice early in the second half and were tied with 11:28 to play.
They were down four with fouls to give with 1:12 left. Trying to win it “the natural way,” getting a stop with enough time to not give a foul, they did cut it to two then fouled with 36 seconds left.
They put the Sugar Bears (5-1) in the bonus five seconds later. Down four again, the Gamecocks had their first option foiled and then lost precious seconds trying to execute Plan B.
Candace Morton led JSU with 19 points. Destany McLin had 10.
Courtney Duever had 14 points and 11 rebounds for UCA, which earlier this month topped an Ole Miss team that beat JSU by 21 two nights earlier.
“The takeaway is we competed, gave a reasonably good effort, but we just made too many mistakes,” Pietri said. “We didn’t throw the ball all over the gym. We had 12 turnovers, not a bad number, but if you say we made a dozen mistakes, if we cut that number in half, the outcome of the game is different.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.