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Gamecocks win thriller in Asheville


Saturday the Gamecocks were in chilly Asheville, North Carolina for one of the most exciting games of the season.

The matchup was a part of the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters series which pitted mid-major schools against each other. The Bulldogs will make a trip to Jacksonville next season for a return game.

While the air was cool outside the action inside on the floor was heated and the game was never decided until the final horn sounded and the backboard lit up. With .8 seconds remaining UNC-Asheville sank a pair of free throws to complete a late rally and tie the game at 69.

Brian Williams took the ensuing inbounds the length down the left side.

The play looked almost identical to the finish against Murray State earlier in the season where with under 10 seconds, Williams drove the court for the winning basket. This time Williams was cut off from driving inside to the goal and off a crossover move to his left put up a shot from right on the three-point arch. The shot was long and bounced off the far backboard straight to the waiting senior Ronnie Boggs was just barely beat the buzzer on his tip in to win the game.

JSU was coming of a Wednesday night game where the Gamecocks made a late rally to beat SEMO to win on senior night and complete a sweep of the west division in the OVC.

JSU is the only OVC team this season to sweep the opposite side of the conference. While the win was big, it couldn’t lead to a let-down performance against North Carolina at Asheville. The Bulldogs are a power in the Big South conference and coming are off back to back conference title and NCAA tournament appearances.

The game was tight with neither team ever having a double digit lead. The Gamecocks first got on the board with 17:10 left in the first half when senior Tarvin Gaines hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at two. Less than a minute later, Boggs drilled a thee to give JSU a lead they would hold for most of the first half.

The Gamecocks climbed to a six-point lead, 12-6, after Brian William hit a three of his own, but the Bulldogs went on a 15-9 run to tie the game at 21 with just under 7:00 to play. At the two minute mark Asheville retook the lead for the first time since JSU gained control early in the game and held on to lead at halftime 30-29 over JSU.

Sophomore Darion Rackley made his return Wednesday night from missing more than a month with a hand injury, but made his presence felt Saturday in the second half. Five minutes into the half Rackley had back-to-back possession where he made a basket and one to push JSU to the lead.

At the 12:10 mark it was a two-point lead for Jax State, 44-42, until Gaines grabbed a steal from behind and tossed it up the court to Williams who finished with a slam that didn’t excite any of the home crowd in blue and white. After Gaines made a pair of free throws with under five minutes to go the lead was the largest of the game for JSU at nine, 62-53.

Asheville put on the pressure and went on a 12-4 run to pull within one as time ran down.

With .42 second remaining Asheville hit a bucket to take the lead, 67-66 as Kimmel Arena erupted. Senior Tarvin Gaines pull up for a long range three on the next possession and drained it to retake the lead by two. The Bulldogs were fouled on the next possession and tied the game at the line which led to JSU taking the ball for the final drive which led to Boggs’ late game heroics.

The thrilling win was the 17th of the season for Jacksonville State marking to most since the 2002-03 season. Tarvin Gaines led the scoring for JSU with 18 points followed by Williams with 15, Boggs and Rackley each had 13. The Gamecocks shot 72% from the charity stripe including a perfect 10/10 in the second half and needed every one of them.

The final game of the season is this Saturday at conference leader Belmont and will be televised on ESPNU.

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