Friday, February 26, 2010

Update: JSU women stuck in D.C.

The JSU women's basketball trip to Georgetown has been a travel nightmare.

The initial game was postponed due to the first wave of snowstorms to the D.C. area. Now, the Gamecocks are stuck in the district becuase another storm cancelled their flight out of town.

That's one distraction the Gamecocks don't need, having to play Tennessee Tech Saturday in their most important game of the year. A win gets them in the OVC Tournament while a loss ends their season.

As of 1 p.m. Friday, officials from the two schools and the conference office were still talking trying to determine a course of action. JSU coach Becky Geyer said from the airport she hoped the game could be played Sunday, but she was prepared to accept whatever was decided.

An OVC official said later in the day the league would wait until Saturday morning, to see how the Gamecocks fare getting out of the city, to make a decision.

As it is, the team will rise early Saturday morning, catch an early flight to Nashville, then bus to Cookeville for the 5:15 p.m. game.

Check the morning Star for a complete story.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Both JSU teams could be No. 6 seeds

If my math is right, both of JSU's basketball teams have a chance to claim the No. 6 seeds in their respective brackets of the OVC Tournament.

JSU's game at Tennessee Tech Saturday is a battle for the No. 6 seed. If the Gamecocks lose it and tie with Tennessee State -- TSU must win twice -- they will get the seventh seed if Eastern Illinois finishes higher than Austin Peay, eighth if Peay finishes higher.

Peay would finish higher with one win this weekend, especially if it's over EIU. Even if Eastern Kentucky, Peay and EIU finished tied at 11-7 (with EIU beating Peay), it goes 3 AP, 4. EIU, 5. EKU because ...

(a) all 3 teams are 2-2 among each other; (b) EKU drops out of the mix (not beating Morehead); and (c) Peay gets 3 by virtue of its sweep of JSU.

The women's side is more complicated for the Gamecocks.

There's a possibility the women's race could end up in a five-way tie for the final four slots in their tournament. JSU, Tech, TSU, UT Martin and Murray State could all finish 7-9 in OVC play.
First and foremost for JSU, the Gamecocks must beat Tech Saturday. Then, TSU has to split its final two games with the loss coming to Eastern Illinois, which has clinched a share of the women's regular season title. Also, Murray and Martin both have be swept by Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State (and they lost to both in the first run through the schedule).

How JSU gets sixth, then, is the Gamecocks and Murray would both be 5-3 among the five-way tie. Murray would get the fifth seed, however, by virtue of its season sweep of the Gamecocks.

In that scenario, Tech (at 4-4 within the tie) would be 7 and Martin would edge out TSU by virtue of its win over Eastern Illinois.

Of course, all that's if my math is right. And if it's not, rest assured someone will correct me. Fast.

It'll be a lot clearer -- and easier to figure -- after Thursday's games.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

OVC busted in Bracket Buster

The Ohio Valley Conference had another weak showing in ESPN's Bracket Buster series.

This year, OVC teams went 3-8 with regular-season champion Murray State, Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Illinois picking up the wins -- all at home. Jacksonville State lost at home to a team that came in with a 4-23 record.

This was the fifth year in a row every team in the league participated in the series. The league is now 19-37 all-time in the Bracket Busters, 18-35 in the five years everybody played.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

WBB faces crunch time

Crunch time is here for the JSU women’s basketball team.

The Gamecocks go into their final three conference games — all on the road — with their postseason fate in their hands.

They are currently in ninth place, but only a half-game out of the eighth and final spot for the OVC Tournament and one game out of seventh. In fact, only two games separate fourth place from ninth.

The Gamecocks wrap up their OVC play at Austin Peay, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech. (Thrown in between is a non-conference return game with Georgetown, the make-up for a game that was snowed out in December.)

They already hold the tiebreaker on current No. 8 UT Martin and can complete the season sweep on current No. 7 Tennessee State with a win there Saturday.

“I really think anything’s possible in this league,” JSU coach Becky Geyer said Tuesday. “We have three games left, some people have four, but with us it’s which team shows up and if our great team shows up we can compete with anybody in the league, so we’re going to do everything we can to make it into this tournament. For us, our goal right now is just getting in

“It’s a different situation than some of the people fighting for that fourth spot. Our goal is to get in. You’ve got to win games. We’re gonna have to go take a couple that we’re not expected to take.”

The Gamecocks have shown they're capable, beating Morehead State earlier this season. They also have won at all three OVC venues they’re going to in down the stretch in the past.

“The majority of our wins and losses, it's (been) about us, not necessarily about the other team,” Geyer said. “How does (JSU) beat Morehead? Most people said that’s not very possible, but it is. It is because we played one of our best games that night.

“That’s what we have to do with these last three games. We have to bring our very, very best. If we do that, we have as good an opportunity to get a win as anybody in the league. That’s what we’re shooting for, to end on a positive note and play some great games in these last three conference games.”

Do you think they can get in?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Weekly award winners

The Gamecocks picked up several OVC Player of the Week honors Monday.

The basketball team clinched its first berth in the OVC Tournament since 2006 over the weekend and a big part of it was due to the play of Nick Murphy and Trenton Marshall.

Murphy was Player of the Week after averaging 21.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals in two games. It was his third PoW award this season. Marshall was named Newcomer of the Week for a conference record seventh time this season after averaging 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals.

The Gamecocks had only had multiple players win OVC weekly honors twice in the same week during its six-year run in the league, but has already accomplished that feat with Murphy and Marshall three times this season.

The softball team won two games in the snow-shortened K-Club Classic at Kennesaw State, and out of it senior outfielder Chrissy O’Neal and freshman pitcher collected OVC honors.

O’Neal shared OVC Player of the Week honors with Southeast Missouri shortstop Renee Kertz after enjoying a pair of two-hit games. She homered, doubled and drove in three runs in a win over Indiana and had two singles and an RBI in a win over Wright State.

Phillips, who we’ve been calling the “Ider Intimidator,” shared Pitcher of the Week honors with SEMO’s Whitney Dupuis after pitching a complete-game in her collegiate debut against Wright State. She got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to preserve the one-run win.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

JSU is in OVC field

The Jacksonville State men's basketball team did qualify for the OVC Tournament for the first time since 2006 Saturday.

When Tennessee State beat Austin Peay Saturday night, it was thought the Gamecocks would have to wait another day to lock up their spot. Instead, when Southeast Missouri lost to Morehead State Saturday night, it was the Redhawks who became the second team that mathematically can not catch JSU in the standings.

The Gamecocks are 7-8 in the OVC with three games to play, starting with Monday's game at Austin Peay. SEMO fell to 3-12 with Saturday's loss and now cannot finish with any more than six league wins. UT Martin had been eliminated from catching the Gamecocks long ago.

TSU's upset left it 3-11 in the league and with four OVC games to play, it can finish with as many as seven league wins.

Eight of the league's 10 eligible teams make the conference tournament, so JSU fans can start making their tournament reservations.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Both JSU women's seniors out

It was 18 minutes before tip of Thursday night's game with UT-Martin and the JSU women's basketball team was on the floor warming up.

But the Gamecocks were without their two most veteran players, and likely will be for the rest of the year.

Senior Jolie Efezokhae watched the warmups from the bench in street clothes, a set of crutches nearby to help her get along with the ankle injury she suffered on last weekend's trip to eastern Kentucky. Team officials said she's done for the year.

The Gamecocks were already without senior guard Kelsey Johnikin, who hasn't played since Jan. 23 after falling out of a truck helping a friend move.

What that means is the team will hold its Senior Day ceremonies Saturday without either of its seniors available to play.

If Efezokhae is done, she will finish as the fifth leading scorer in JSU women's basketball history (1,194). Her time has been limited since the middle of December anyway. She's played 15 minutes or more only once since Dec. 18 and hasn't scored more than nine points in any game since Dec. 5.

The Gamecocks have six regular-season games remaining, counting Thursday. They entered the game tied for ninth place in the OVC standings, but were only a half-game out of the eighth and final OVC Tournament spot and one game out of seventh.

UT-Martin also is limited tonight. LaBrica Ward, the reigning OVC Player and Freshman of the Week, has been suspended for the game for disciplinary reasons. Skyhawks starters Cali Cupples and Alecia Weatherly are both playing sick.

Softball's new look

When the JSU softball team opens the season Saturday in Kennesaw State's K-Club Classic, the Gamecocks will have their eye on a bigger prize and they'll have a new look.

After the Gamecocks made the progression from regional participant to regional champion the last two years, the next logical step is super-regional winner and participant in the Women's College World Series.

"We definitely have the heart for it this year," first baseman Nikki Prier said.

They'll also have some new uniforms. It's basically the same color scheme, but there's a big gamecock stitched onto the back above the numbers.

"That's what they're proud of," JSU coach Jana McGinnis said. "That's what they want. A lot of teams go with their mascot now below their neck."

The new unis make their home debut Feb. 18 against SIU-Edwardsville. It's the Gamecocks' only home game until March 20.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

JSU picked second, Cunningham denied

Jacksonville State's baseball team was picked a close second in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason coaches poll and placed three players on the preseason All-OVC team.

The upset, however, may have been the Gamecocks' most decorated player since last season -- outfielder Todd Cunningham of Jacksonville -- was nowhere on the list. Cunningham won the batting title in the prestigeous Cape Cod Summer League, flirting with .400, was named the league's best pro prospect and is a multiple preseason All-America, including a first-teamer by Baseball America, but was not on either the preseason All-OVC team or the major preseason awards.

Cunningham said he wasn't bothered by the apparent snub, saying there are a number of good players in the league deserving of such recognition.

Besides, he's not the kind of player who focuses on the awards. His focus remains on playing and the business of winning.

"It's hard to not notice all the stuff going on around you," Cunningham said. "I don’t want to play the oblivious card or anything like that. It's hard to not notice, but as far as adding any kind of pressure to the season, it's still just going out to play.

"First and foremost, before all that stuff comes along it's about winning. There's no real focus on the pressure adding up to me personally. I'm definitely team oriented."

Morehead State senior shortstop Drew Lee (.417, 17 HRs, 67 RBIs) and Eastern Kentucky junior third baseman Jayson Langfels (.441, 12 HRs, 72 RBIs) were named OVC Preseason Co-Players of the Year while Murray State senior Chris Craycraft (10-3, 4.05) and Eastern Illinois junior Josh Mueller (8-1, 4.85 ERA) were tabbed OVC Preseason Co-Pitchers of the Year.

The Gamecocks' three preseason All-OVC picks are second baseman Bert Smith, the school's all-time stolen base leader who missed most of last season after shoulder surgery, outfielder Daniel Adamson and relief pitcher Bill Henke.

In the team poll, the Gamecocks picked up the most first place votes (four), but finished with 56 points -- three behind preseason favorite Eastern Illinois, the 2009 regular season champions. Tennessee Tech, the 2009 OVC Tournament champs, was third (51), followed by Murray State (43), Morehead State (33), Eastern Kentucky (26), Southeast Missouri (25), Austin Peay (22) and UT Martin (9).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Insight on the newcomers

Here are some snippets of what a few of JSU’s football signees told their local media about their decision to sign with the Gamecocks:

Navarre defensive lineman ARMANI WILLIAMS had planned to sign with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but he told the Crestview (Fla.) News Bulletin he was happy when the Gamecocks called him back.

“I had hoped they would (offer) but they waited,” Williams said. “I had told myself I was going to Pine Bluff and I was okay with that … but the big difference is my whole dream was to play top-notch, championship football and when I got to Jacksonville State, it was a no-brainer at the end of the day.”

Williams had 55 tackles last season with four forced fumbles, one recovery and four sacks. What you don’t know about him is he’s a multi-talented kid. The timing of his recruiting visit was impacted by a commitment to compete in a state choral competition.

The spot for Williams opened when one of the Gamecocks' OL prospects signed with Baylor at the last minute. That was one of three they lost to the Big 12, Conference USA or the MAC in the closing days of the process.

Hartselle lineman CHAD HAMPTON is following a family legacy to JSU. His father, Mack, played for the Gamecocks in 1979-83. Though an offensive lineman in high school, he’s projected as a defensive lineman in college and told the Decatur Daily, “I like playing offensive line, but I like to just go out there and hit somebody instead of doing the same thing over and over.”

PIERRE WARREN played several positions at Marbury, but is projected as a receiver at JSU. He only played four games before suffering a season-ending injury, but told the Montgomery Advertiser, "I thought I could play, and I'm glad I've got somewhere to keep playing.”

Hillcrest center MAX HOLCOMBE told the Tuscaloosa News, “They have the potential to be a great football team. It’s going to be real fun, the next chapter in my life. I’m ready to get to it. The coaches, the facilities, their weight room, everything was real nice.”

The paper reported the JSU coaches told Holcombe they’d like him to report at 275. He’s currently 262.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

All prospects signed in

By 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Jacksonville State had letters of intent from all the prospects it expected to get on National Signing Day.

For as strong as the class will be -- with an Alabama Mr. Football, an SEC-caliber offensive linemen and three JUCOs to fill voids on the defensive line -- the key to making the class so strong might just be a kicker.

The Gamecocks signed two kickers in the class, but the biggest pick-up could be Florida State transfer James Esco.

The kicker signees help fill the void created by the departure of Patrick Tatum, the Auburn transfer who handled all the kicking duties last season but left the program after the season for personal reasons.

Esco kicked off for the Seminoles in 2008, averaging 59.5 yards for his 48 kickoffs in eight games. He also was credited with three tackles. He's expected to be the kickoff guy when JSU opens the season at Ole Miss next season.

As for the class as a whole, JSU coach Jack Crowe said "the (quality at the) top is higher than it's ever been and the bottom is higher than it's ever been." Translation: The Gamecocks have raised the bar in their recruiting class.

Complete details can be found in Thursday's edition of the Star.

Here's the list:

Coty Blanchard (6-0, 180, QB, Leesburg, Ala./Cherokee County HS)
Brannon Byrd (6-2, 243, LB, Lucedale, Miss./Gulf Coast CC)
Gabriel Chambers (5-10, 157, WR, Centre, Ala./Cherokee County HS)
Steven Coates (6-2, 190, QB, Decatur, Ga./Southwest Dekalb HS)
James Esco (PK, 6-3, 207, Leesburg, Ga./Florida State)
Marquis George (6-4, 242, DE, Elsner, Del./Dodge City CC)
Chad Hampton (6-5, 252, OL, Hartselle, Ala./Hartselle HS)
Tristan Hardin (6-6, 291, OL, Birmingham, Ala./Erwin HS)
Preston Hatcher (6-3, 285, OL, Dothan, Ala./Northview HS)
Max Holcombe (6-3, 271, C, Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest HS)
Michael Lewis (6-4, 237, DL, Ocoee, Fla./Ocoee HS)
Tarik Milner (6-3, 240, OL, Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern HS)
Aaron Nelson (6-1, 285, NG, Ocian Springs, Miss./Gulf Coast CC)
Jeremy Nicholson (5-10, 172, WR, Brewton, Ala./WS Neal HS)
Joel Smith (5-11, 179, PK, Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton HS)
Clay Squires (6-2, 280, C, Satsuma, Ala./Satsuma HS)
Johnny Ubi, Jr. (6-6, 302, OL, Meridianville, Ala./Hazel Green HS)
Pierre Warren (6-1, 178, WR, Prattville, Ala./Marbury HS)
Armani Williams (6-2, 277, NG, Navarre, Fla./Navarre HS)
Chase Williams (6-0, 212, LB, Boaz, Ala./Boaz HS)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

JSU game at Tennessee State ppd.

JSU's basketball game with Tennessee State Tuesday night was postponed because of a problem with the Gentry Center roof, a casualty of the winter storm that ravaged Nashville and environs over the weekend.

The game will be rescheduled for Feb. 17, between the Gamecocks' game at Austin Peay and their Bracket Buster home date with Presbyterian.

The schools tried to find an alternate venue -- Belmont, Lipscomb, Vanderbilt -- but the timing made it difficult to pull it off.

The team will continue on their weeklong road trip today, heading off to Morehead State.

Read more in Wednesday morning's Star.

No Combine for Perrilloux

As much as JSU administrators and coaches have said quarterback Ryan Perrilloux is going to the NFL Combine, the list of official invitees is out and Perrilloux is not on it.

It's shocking to some experts, including this poster on the internet:

"What a difference half a decade makes, 5 years ago Ryan Perrilloux out-dueled Mark Sanchez to secure his place as the #1 QB prospect entering college and by most major services the #1 prospect overall. After a red-shirt year and a spate of incidents ranging from the silly to the serious interrupted only by a few moments of brilliant play, Ryan Perrilloux in the Spring of 2008 left the orbit near the center of the football universe for a more remote and spartan outpost at Jacksonville State.

"Coach Jack Crowe is in many senses a 'central casting' football coach, a powerful presence with a Southern drawl and a (zero) tolerance for nonsense. I have had multiple conversations with Coach Jack Crowe and one brief one recently with Ryan Perrilloux as he prepared for Texas Versus the Nation. What is clear is that his talent is still there, his passion and commitment for football have greatly increased and he is now a much, much more mature young man, very different from the spoiled kid who did so many things wrong before.

"In a year where there are so few "plus arms" with Clausen, Pike, Jarrett Brown and Fordham's John Skelton being among the few who can drive the ball with authority on deeper routes the fact the perhaps the best arm in the NCAA will not be in Indianapolis is an absence that may prove conspicuous like an elephant in the room, who can throw a ball 70+ yards. "