When the Jackson State men’s basketball team dropped its fourth-straight game in a 79-66 loss to Texas Southern on Monday night, the message could not have been any louder for Tigers head coach Wayne Brent to his team: just win a game.
And for Brent, he emphasized that message all week in practice to his players as Jackson State (9-17, 6-7) prepares for a matchup against Grambling State Saturday evening in the Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center.
“What we are trying to do at this point is just win a game,” Brent said.
“It is an important game for us. It’s a home game so hopefully, home court will help us with this one and the importance of getting to 7-7.”
Grambling State at Jackson State
📍| Jackson, Miss./AAC
🕞| 5:30 p.m.
📺| Live Stream https://t.co/PMMQrUldaA
📻| Live Audio https://t.co/fLNtAoEiil
📈| Live Stats https://t.co/z1jgU0Ngpd#TheeILove#BleedTheeBlue pic.twitter.com/12AziRdqJU
— Jackson State Athletics (@GoJSUTigers) February 23, 2019
JSU sits in sixth place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) standings while Grambling (13-13, 7-6) sits in fifth but only one game in front of the Tigers, something Brent has stressed to his players coming into the game.
- Texas Southern rides Combs hot hand to sixth straight win
- Jackson State: Tigers hope to end three-game skid versus Texas Southern
- Jackson State, Grambling clash in critical late-season conference game
Before Jackson State began its four-game skid, the Tigers were once tied for second place in the SWAC and were on a three-game winning streak. Jackson State – a team that was coming off back-to-back road losses against the top two teams in the league in Prairie View (51-55) and Texas Southern (75-65) in January – used a 65-63 victory over Grambling to begin the Tigers winning streak.
And for JSU, it plans to embark on another turning point in the season, taking each game one at a time and starting Saturday evening against Grambling.
“When you go back and look at the film, we were playing really good together,” Brent said.
“We shared the basketball. We got back on the defensive end and really grinded it out on defense. We got to bring that ball down, be patient and get it to guys who are comfortable passing, scoring or making plays and then we got to get back in transition and take it one possession at a time.”
In the first meeting between the two teams, JSU shot the ball 41.7 percent (25-of-60 shooting) from the floor, including 46.4 percent in the second half to edge GSU. The game changers for the Tigers in the contest was forcing Grambling into 18 turnovers and earning 13 points off those turnovers. Then, JSU held Grambling’s leading scorer, Ivy Smith, to just six points in the first half before he went on to finish with 18 in the game.
Chris Howell and Venjie Walls lead the team in scoring, averaging 11.8 points per game. Against GSU in the first matchup, it was the play of these two and others like Jesse Love who impacted the game in a big way for Jackson State.
Howell finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in a double-double in the first matchup. Wallis recorded 14 points that included going 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Love knocked down critical three-point baskets and finished with nine points to help the Tigers win the game.
Jackson State has the blueprint to win a much-needed game. For senior players like Howell, they are determined and motivated to turn the season around in the last five games of their regular season college career.
“You can sense the desperation in them and you can tell they want to win,” Brent said.
“I talked to Chris quite a bit and the one thing he relays to me is that … Coach we are going to figure this out and we going take it one game at a time. When you get that from a kid who is actually going out there trying, that is something special. Not only is he thinking about himself but the team as well.”
Brent, who is in a contract year as head coach, has also felt the pressure to win sooner rather than later in regard to job security for the upcoming season.
However, Brent’s main focus remains on coaching his team through the remainder of this season and finishing strong.
“You are always worried and anytime you drop four games, you can’t continue to lose to keep a job,” Brent said.
“If we can get to 7-7 and get the Grambling game, it will give us some momentum going into the next road trip. At this point, that’s our only hope. You try to stick to doing what you been doing and you know coming in, and you know you working hard, watching film, you know your guys are in the place they are supposed to be.
Grambling enters Saturday’s game ranked third in the SWAC in scoring offense, averaging 71.6 points per game and second in scoring defense (68.6 ppg). GSU is also first in the conference in field goal percentage offense (.446), field goal percentage defense (.387), three-point field goal percentage (.395) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.296).
Ivy Smith and Dallas Polk-Hilliard lead GSU in scoring, averaging 13.1 and 12.6 points per game respectively.
As for Jackson State, the Tigers currently sit at the bottom of the conference in scoring offense (60.9 ppg) but first in scoring defense (66.9) and tied for fourth in three-point field goal percentage defense (.343). JSU also sits in the top half of the league in offensive and defensive rebounding.
Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.