2018-19 Basketball

Jackson State narrowly defeats rival Miss. Valley

Jackson State

Jackson State took care of business with in-state rival Mississippi Valley State on Saturday night.

It was not a pretty victory for the Jackson State men’s basketball team but it was a game it could not afford to lose. JSU held on to defeat Mississippi Valley State 61-57 Saturday evening in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 people inside of Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center.

Tigers guard Chris Howell led Jackson State in scoring with 17 points and seven rebounds, followed by 15 points from Jontrell Walker off the bench that included a clutch three-pointer and a pair of free throws in the final minutes of the game to help seal the victory for JSU.

With the win, Jackson State (8-13, 5-3) now sits in a two-way tie for third place with Texas Southern (10-11, 5-3). Texas Southern defeated Alabama State in convincing fashion at home, 83-59.

Tigers head coach Wayne Brent said he was proud of the way his team finished down the stretch during critical moments of the game.

“You can see our team growing,” Brent said. “We’ve been stressing and putting a lot of emphasis on the last four minutes of the game. As a coach, it gives you a lot of confidence when you have players coming to the side and whether they are playing five minutes or 15 minutes, if they’re pulling hard for each other and they are confident, it gives the coaching staff a lot of confidence.”

In a game that produced nine ties and eight lead changes, JSU finished the game shooting 40.4 percent off 21-of-52 shooting from the floor, 29.4 percent from three-point range (5-of-17) and 60.9 percent (14-of-23) from the free throw line. The Tigers outrebounded the Delta Devils 38-35 and outscored them in bench points 29-6.

Mississippi Valley (3-19, 1-7) shot 36.4 percent off 20-of-55 shooting from the floor, 37.5 percent (6-of-16) from three-point range and 64.7 percent from the charity stripe for the game. Delta Devils guard Dante Scott led MVSU in scoring with 28 points that included 21 in the second half, followed by guard Jordan Evans with 13 points.

It was MVSU that shot the three ball well in the first half, shooting 50 percent (4-of-8) from beyond the arc. However, when it mattered the most, it was Walker who hit the two biggest three-pointers of the game.

With just under six minutes to play trailing by two, Walker connected on the first of his clutch three-pointers, giving the Tigers a 51-50 lead. But much like the first half went with both teams going back and forth in scoring, Valley responded with a jumper from Scott to put the Delta Devils back up by one.

After both teams exchanged free throws over the next few possessions to tie the game, Walker was fouled but converted only one of his free throws before hitting his second three-pointer of the game and the shot of the game to put the Tigers up 58-54.

“That was the dagger (three-point shot) because it gave us a four-point cushion,” Brent said.

While the three-pointer was not planned, Walker said he was ready for it.

“I knew it was kind of coming, I was watching the flow and as it was coming, I just made sure I was ready,” Walker said.

“I caught it, followed through, repetition. When it left my hand, I knew it was good.”

MVSU, however, would not give up. With 1:51 to play in the game, Scott hit another well-defended jumper and Delta Devils forward Emmanuel Ejeh added a free throw to bring Mississippi Valley within one.

The Delta Devils were forced to foul, sending Tigers’ Walker to the line for two more free throws and one more by Jayveous McKinnis, allowing JSU to seal the victory.

“The free throws I knew would seal the game, those were going to be huge,” Walker said.

In the first half, both teams exchanged baskets for nearly the first seven minutes before the Delta Devils went on a 5-0 run and led 16-11, their largest lead of the game. The Tigers, however, converted on jump shots from Khalil Spencer, Justin Johnson and a free throw from Howell to tie the game at 16.

Locking in for the stretch run

With five wins in conference play, the Tigers turn their attention University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a team that is coming off a 79-55 loss to Grambling on the road.

As for Brent and his team, the victory against MVSU brings them one step closer of coming together collectively as a team.

“Anytime you win, a win kind of bring guys together,” Brent said. “When you can win in close games, kids begin to believe you. When you lose, it’s difficult. It’s hard to get your spirit up for the next day.”

And for Walker and his teammates, they are confident heading into the game against UAPB after Saturday’s win.

“This team is very cohesive,” Walker said. “We see our big goal, our big picture. We see where we are in our conference. We understand how big of a game it’s going to be Monday just for the conference. And, we are going to be ready and continue to push forward.”

Jackson State returns to action Monday night as the Tigers host University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m., at the Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center.

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