Jags Late Rally Fall Short Against MTSU

January 7, 2013 · By · Filed Under Basketball, Men's 

A late rally by South Alabama falls short as the Jaguars fell to Middle Tennessee at home 60-56. The Blue Raiders held the Jaguars to 37 percent shooting for the game and held them scoreless over the final 1:41 of the game at the Mitchell Center.

The Jags fall back to 7-7 overall for the season and 4-2 in Sun Belt play. MTSU improves to 12-4 overall for the season and 4-1 in Sun Belt Play to move into first place in the Sun Belt Conference Eastern Division.

The Blue Raiders used a 17-3 run at the end of the first half and into the beginning of the second half to lead by as many as 15 points in the second half. They led by 11 points with 3:57 left in the game before the Jags rallied to get within two points in the final two minutes of the game.

“When you play a team that good, a unanimous pick to win your league, you have to play 40 minutes and we got 35,” interim head coach Jeff Price said. “You can’t play 35 with these guys, you have to play 40. You can’t compound mistakes with mistakes. I thought we made a couple of mistakes and got our head down and missed a couple of layups when we didn’t need to. We got down and we could have laid down and quit but we didn’t. We fought and we had our chances.”

The Jags led 27-23 with 1:22 left in the first half before a 6-1 run to end the half put them ahead 29-28 at halftime. The Blue Raiders would take that momentum into the second half as they opened with a 11-2 run, nine consecutive points, over a 3:36 time frame to take their largest lead of the game until that point 40-30.

“That was the key to the whole game,” Price said of the beginning of the second half. “We didn’t play the last minute of the last first half well either. We were up by maybe three and then we had a turnover and that last half court turnover and kind of broke our momentum a little bit. We went in down one. Instead we should have been up. And the first four minutes of the second half, you always tell your guys (about) the first five minutes and they just have to buy in. You can’t put your head down against a team this good, you just have to keep battling. Sometimes we just got a little mentally weak and we can’t do that.”

MTSU would stretch their lead out to 15 points in the second half on an 8-0. The Jags went through a stretch of nearly five minutes without a field goal, which included five missed layups.

“We just missed so many easy shots around the basket for a stretch there that would normally go in,” Price said. “For about four minutes it was like Arkansas State when layups wouldn’t go in by very good players. I mean Aug and Mike were missing them.”

The Jags comeback attempt began during the final four minutes when they were down by 11 points. Javier Carter got it started with a tip in and a blocked shot on the other end of the court. Rubit then made two free throws followed by Freddie Goldstein hitting a three-pointer to cut the lead down to four points at 58-54.

The Jaguar defense forced a missed shot and Antoine Allen would go almost the length of the court for a layup with 1:41 left in the game to cut the lead down to two points. However the Blue Raider defense would then force three missed shots and hold the Jags scoreless the rest of the way.

Augustine Rubit would miss a layup with 56 seconds left then MTSU would convert two free throws for the final score of 60-56. A final three-point attempt by Ammons would miss and a last second attempt from Allen would be blocked.

MTSU head coach Kermit Davis praised the Jaguars in his post-game press conference. “I’m so impressed with how South Alabama has competed. It’s shown up on all the tapes,” he said. “It looked like we’d built a good lead, but, against an experienced team, I have to give them credit. They were physical and made a bunch of plays. We were lucky to hang on there at the end.”

Ammons led all scorers with 15 points off the bend and added eight rebounds to fall short of a double-double. Although Augustine Rubit extended his double-double streak to six in a row with 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Goldstein added 12 points and a team-high four assits. Javier Carter chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds.

Xavier Roberson continues to serve his indefinite suspension for breaking unspecified team and athletic department rules.

Bruce Massey led MTSU with 12 points while Shawn Jones was the only other player in double-digits with 11 points.

The Jaguars travel to Lafayette, Louisiana to take on the Ragin’ Cajuns on Thursday. The game is set to tip-off at 7pm.

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