After the Gamecocks suffered a “crushing” two-point overtime loss to the Tigers on Jan. 4, JSU gained a measure of revenge with an 84-76 win Monday over Tennessee State. It marked JSU's third straight home win.
“I told our team this is going to be an expensive gift to gain,” Pietri said. “This wasn’t going to be a cheap gift. They were going to have to pay a heavy price for this one because of the way Tennessee State plays and the energy and aggressiveness they play with.
“Fortunately enough, we were able to do the things we needed to do to pay for that expensive gift.”
In the first meting, JSU (7-14, 3-5 in the Ohio Valley Conference) squandered a three-point lead with only a minute remaining in regulation.
This time, the Gamecocks led by four with a minute to play. They were able to hold on with the help of guards Candace Morton and Briana Benson sinking their final six free throws.
Former Gamecocks forward Briana Morrow made her first appearance in Pete Mathews Coliseum since December 2012. Morrow transferred to Tennessee State halfway through last season. Charged with the duty of guarding her former teammate was junior forward Miranda Cantrell.
“Competition,” Cantrell said, “it sees no friends. The last game, I told here I love you, but we’re going to get buckets either way. To lose to them the first time, we shouldn’t have lost. I told her after the game today, great day to be a Gamecock.”
It was Cantrell who had the last laugh. She led JSU with 21 points and 12 rebounds on her way to her sixth double-double performance this season. Pietri called her performance “huge.”
“For her to put up 21 and 12,” he said, “as well as shoot a high percentage from the free throw line and the floor, from an offensive standpoint, she did almost everything I could have asked her to do.”
Freshman Briana Benson made her first career start at JSU. Pietri made the move only 40 minutes before the game to get a better matchup with TSU’s size. The 5-foot-8 guard finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
“At first, I was shocked — nervous,” Benson said. “But once he told me I had to step up and play, I stepped up and played.”
The Gamecocks return to action Saturday at Murray State.