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19 December 2007
JSU Misses Brown in Loss

Al Muskewitz
Star Sports Writer

Murray State’s Tony Easley dunks over a trio of JSU defenders during the Racers’ 79-65 win in Jacksonville on Tuesday. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/File

Reprinted here in its entirety.

JACKSONVILLE — The combination of a 10-day layoff and being without two of their top players was just too much for a struggling Jacksonville State basketball team to overcome Tuesday night.

Playing for the first time since Dec. 8, and missing Dorien Brown and Jeremy Bynum, the Gamecocks dropped their fifth in a row, falling to Murray State 79-65 at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

Brown, a senior forward and the team’s most experienced player, was declared academically ineligible, effectively ending his collegiate career. They held out Bynum, their second leading scorer, for precautionary health reasons.

“It definitely isn’t the situation you want to be faced with, but it’s the one we had,” JSU coach Mike LaPlante said, “Our guys tried to get through it.

“We had the hardest trouble making that adjustment in the first half, but I thought the second half we came out and were able to fight through it, and guys started to maybe get a little more comfortable in the role they had to be in.”

Brown was said to be in good academic standing at mid-semester, but didn’t do well on his final exams.

Actually, he’s only played one complete season because of injury and discipline reasons. He missed 11 of the last 13 games as a freshman because of a shoulder injury and was suspended 10 games last season. In the only complete season he played — his sophomore year — he averaged 11.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and the Gamecocks went 16-13, reaching the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

Privacy issues prevented JSU officials from discussing Bynum’s situation. The freshman guard is expected to see a doctor Thursday.

Freshman guard J.J. Wesley said losing Brown “hurt our heart.”

Freshman guard Nick Murphy said it was like “playing without an arm.”

Technically, Brown could have played with the Gamecocks until second-semester classes started Jan. 10 — five games counting Tuesday’s, four in the OVC — but LePlante said he felt it was more prudent to begin learning to play without him.

Wesley said he would’ve liked to have seen him out there.

“I figure we should let him play until he can’t play no more,” Wesley said. “I say he should finish our whatever he had to finish.”

“We need him,” said Murphy. “I’d rather us play with him because we need all the help we can get, and then when he can’t play then we we’ll have to play through that. Even though he wouldn’t be able to play, we’d still need him until school starts back and he won’t be eligible any more.”

Brown’s departure means upgraded roles for a lot of players, particularly freshmen J.R. Weathers and Murphy. Weathers evenly split the post minutes with Amadou Mbodji, and they combined for 22 points and nine rebounds.

Murphy and Erik Adams, still not 100 percent from his preseason ankle injury, split time at Brown’s old spot. Murphy, a big guard in high school, scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds. Wesley and Will Ginn both added 11 points for the Gamecocks (2-8, 0-3 OVC).

The difference in the game was JSU’s continued struggles at the foul line. The Gamecocks had one fewer field goal than Murray, and two more offensive rebounds, but they were 6-of-19 from the line, where the Racers (5-3, 2-1) were 18 of 21.

“If we make free throws, it wouldn’t have been the difference in absolutely winning,” LaPlante said, “but it makes the score much more manageable ... When you look at the numbers, we’re playing them relatively even, that was the separator.”

The Gamecocks fell behind by as many as 17 in each half. They did cut it to eight with 5:50 to play, but got no closer.

About Al Muskewitz

Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State University sports teams for The Anniston Star.

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