It was known heading into the season that the Gamecocks had a tough opening schedule in men’s basketball under coach Green, but an 0-5 start was still not in the plans.
Jacksonville State had one of it’s best division I seasons a year ago going 17-11 and hoped to build off that for another strong campaign this season, while that’s still possible, a turnaround has to come quick.
The five opponents JSU has opened the season against: Bradley (4-1), Illinois (4-0), Chicago State (2-3), Alabama State (3-2), and Auburn (2-1) have a combined 15-7 record with only one team having a losing record early on. So the competition has been against fairly good, if not really good, teams. Still, with conference play in the Ohio Valley Conference closing in, the opponents won’t get any easier.
The problems through the first five games have been mostly on offense. Shooting tops the list whether in action, or at the free throw line. JSU is shooting just 62 percent from the stripe, and in two very close games may have seen better outcomes with a higher made percentage. Also shooting in the game, Darion Rackley and Brian Williams are going to be the lead scorers for the Gamecocks, but early on both have had their struggles finding the bottom of the net.
Both players are shooting exactly 38 percent from the field, unusually low compared to previous years. Rackley is averaging just 15 points a game, not bad, but expected to carry a little more weight this season with some offensive power from a year ago gone now. But worse is Williams who is barely scoring over ten a game at 12. Rico Sanders, and D.J. Felder along with the rest of the team will add points, but they can’t lead the way and make up ground from Williams and Rackley.
The Gamecocks have a shot to get thing back on track Friday when they host Dalton State from just across the Georgia line. Even as an NAIA program, the Roadrunners are 8-1 already this season and will likely bring an up tempo style of play to Pete Mathews Coliseum when the two programs meet for the first time.
On the Women’s side, first year head coach Rick Pietri is working out some early adjustments too after an 0-3 start. However, most are willing to let Pietri take his time, a proven winner as the winningest coach at South Alabama, he took over a Gamecocks squad that squeaked out only a single win a year ago.
The early losses are no doubt building JSU’s strength after facing two good SEC teams on the road in Ole Miss and Auburn and then a trip Georgia Southern.
Jacksonville State hosted Kennesaw State on Wednesday and now looks ahead to a road trip to New Orleans on Saturday before returning to The Pete to face Central Arkansas on Nov. 26 before taking part in the Georgia State Invitational.