The Morehead State men's basketball Eagles ultimately fell to Jacksonville State, 77-71, Saturday afternoon at Johnson Arena. The Eagles showed guts and grit throughout 40 minutes. But the home team came out on the losing end of a back-and-forth battle that saw six ties and 10 lead changes, with neither team leading by more than six until the closing minutes.
With today's result, the Eagles move to 8-13 on the season, 4-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. Jacksonville State advances to 15-6 overall, and 7-1 in league action.
"I couldn't ask more from our guys tonight, I thought they truly fought," said head coach Preston Spradlin. "We did a lot of things right tonight, and unfortunately went a bit stagnant on offense down the stretch. Credit to JSU for also crashing the offensive glass and converting, getting those second-chance points."
To compete with the best teams in any conference, senior leadership is a vital component. And, that trait was on display tonight, as Morehead State's two lone seniors led the way. Norcross, Ga., native A.J. Hicks paced the Eagles with 22 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Fellow senior, four-year star Lamontray Harris, pitched in for 15 points and seven rebounds. The Louisville, Ky., product continues to show his offensive savvy, scoring double figures in all but three tilts this year for the Eagles
Junior Jordan Walker rounded out the double-figure performances with 10 markers of his own.
The contest was a tale of two halves, as both teams thrived offensively in the first half. MSU connected on 14-of-29 (.483) attempts, compared to JSU's 17-of-29 (.586). The Eagles kept the contest close with five first-half three-pointers, only trailing by three at the break, 38-35.
The second half saw more of a defensive theme, as the Eagles were held to 39 percent shooting for the stanza, while the Gamecocks nailed 47 percent from the floor. The game finished with the visitors winning the shooting efficiency battle, leading that category 53-43 percent.
Continuing with the theme of senior leadership, JSU saw three of its seniors lead the way, with Jason Burnell and Detrick Mostella (who came off the bench) scoring 19 points each. Christian Cunningham chipped in with 12 points.
"It's encouraging to see this kind of performance against, arguably, the best team in our league. We have to learn from today's mistakes, but also build on our positives, and get ready for our road trip to Illinois next week," Spradlin added.
Morehead State will return to action on the road as the Eagles make their way to Illinois. MSU will take on SIU Edwardsville on Thursday evening. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET from the Vadalabene Center.