Pete Mathews Coliseum was alive and rocking Saturday afternoon when the Gamecocks faced Ohio Valley Conference powerhouse foe, Murray State, in front of more than 3,400 fans.
Jax State had failed to ever beat the Racers in the 16 previous meetings since joining the conference. Murray State just earlier this year won their program’s 600th OVC game, no other school has more than 500 OVC wins.
With a postseason ban, JSU knew this would be their only shot at MSU this season and came out ready for a big game. The early part of the game was physical on both sides, as it would remain throughout the game which included four technical fouls, two on each team.
With 8:27 left in the first half JSU trailed 13-17, but moved within three of the Racers after a Brian Williams free throw. The free throw began a run that would propel the Gamecocks into the lead. Senior Mason Leggett, from Zachary, La, officially put JSU on top with a layup in what would finish as a 12-0 run that spanned five minutes. Before the half Jacksonville State expanded their lead to nine and hit the locker rooms with a 30-21 lead, finishing the half on a 17-4 run.
Murray State under second year head coach Steve Prohm is 46-6 having only lost on the road once. The Racers stormed out of the half and made it clear an upset wasn’t going to be easy. MSU slowly chipped away at the lead and with 9:53 remaining a three by Racers’ standout Isaiah Canaan made it a two point game, 45-43.
The lead was gone and the Gamecocks would have to fight the final nine minute for a win.
JSU climbed back to a 53-46 lead but Nick Cook, who had battled down low all game had to leave with four fouls allowing the Racers to get back in the game with inside buckets.
Murray State tied the game at 57-57 with 2:30 remaining. Two possessions later, JSU was locked down by a reenergized Racer defense but Ronnie Boggs finally found the slightest space and stepped back to nail a three pointer as the shot clock horn went off. Jax State led 60-57 under a minute to play.
After a missed MSU shot, Leggett drained two free throws after being fouled to go up 62-57, but MSU hit a quick three and would find themselves down just one, 63-62 with 12 seconds remaining. JSU’s inbounds pass was bobbled out of bounds to give the Racers the ball under their own basket with just ten seconds remaining.
On the inbounds MSU gave a lob toward the basket that was knocked in to take a 64-63 lead, the first MSU lead since 8:00 to go in the first half. Jax State quickly inbounded the ball to Brian Williams who rushed down the court and was fouled attempting a shot on the side of the goal. With 2.4 remaining on the clock the arena went quite as Williams stepped to the line.
The first shot bounced before falling through the net, but the second was nothing but net. A final half court heave from MSU was no good as Jacksonville State had knocked off Murray State for the first time.
Coach James Green called it the biggest win he’s been a part of in the five years he’s been at JSU. Junior Brian Williams finished with a team high 17 points including his final two clutch free throws, Boggs and Tarvin Gaines each had 13, and Leggett added 12. Gaines led with eight rebounds followed by Cook with seven, and the play of Rinaldo Mafra and Rico Sanders can’t be underestimated as they both contributed in ways that don’t show up in the box score.
The Racers fell to 15-5, but still hold a comfortable OVC lead, while the Gamecocks improved to 14-7 and promise a non-losing season for the first time since the 2005-2006 season.