Braves shook cobwebs loose vs. Jax State

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

LORMAN &045; A seven-point halftime lead was not good enough for Alcorn head coach Sam West, who was looking for his first victory as the Braves lead chief Saturday.

He still saw gaping holes that needed patching at halftime, such as 10 first-half turnovers and the need to pound the offensive glass where the Braves had just four rebounds.

Renewed, Alcorn came out guns blazing in the opening minutes of the second half, building its lead into double figures before holding on for a 70-68 victory over Jacksonville State.

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&uot;It was all mental. We corrected everything in the locker room,&uot; said West, who got his first victory in six tries. &uot;We were doing just the opposite of what we were supposed to be doing. But this is a young team. But we’re getting older and wiser every day.&uot;

Thanks to some tight defense that never let up, the Braves forced the Gamecocks into 12 turnovers.

&uot;We haven’t been finishing games,&uot; Braves senior forward Brian Jackson said. &uot;We’ve been playing for 30 minutes, and then lay down the last 10. We came through tonight and knocked down some shots.&uot;

It was plenty enough for JSU head coach Mike LaPlante to acknowledge he could tell how hungry the Braves were Saturday.

&uot;I thought they did a great job defensively on us,&uot; LaPlante said. &uot;Their intensity was up throughout and they were forcing us into contested shots all night. We missed a lot of layups. If we had got a couple to fall, we would’ve been in a lot better shape.&uot;

TOURING THE SWAC &045; With the loss Jacksonville State (4-3) is now 2-2 versus Southwestern Athletic Conference teams this season.

The Gamecocks, who swept a pair of games from Alcorn last year, have earlier defeats over Alabama A&M (74-68, Nov. 21) and Jackson State (71-63, Dec. 1) and received an 84-59 drubbing from Mississippi Valley State Nov. 29.

&uot;We like playing (SWAC schools) because they’ll come over to our place as well,&uot; LaPlante said. &uot;A lot of teams are afraid to play SWAC teams because they are so well coached, but that’s why we schedule them.&uot;

After a two-and-a-half break for the Christmas holidays, the Braves return the favor at the Pete Matthews Coliseum in Jacksonville, Ala., Dec. 30.

It will be the final non-conference game before Alcorn opens its SWAC schedule with road games at Texas Southern (Jan. 3) and Prairie View (Jan. 5) before returning home to host Jackson State (Jan. 10).

MISSING COMPONENTS &045; The Gamecocks’ two leading scorers, Trent Eager and Carl Brown, managed to reach double figures scoring, but both were unable to execute their usual bread and butter.

Eager came into the game shooting better than 68 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, converting 15 of his 22 attempts.

However, Alcorn limited the 6-6 senior forward’s looks from downtown to two, where Eager knocked down one.

Eager finished with 11 points, five points less than his season’s average (16.2).

Brown, who came in second on the team in points averaging 14.8 per game, finished with 12. However, it could have been nearly 20 if the 6-8 junior had not misfired on high-percentage shots.

&uot;He came in shooting better than 70 percent from the floor, but he wasn’t able to finish some shots tonight,&uot; LaPlante said of Brown. &uot;You’re gonna have those nights as a player. You just have to keep shooting and hope some will fall for you.&uot;

INTERNATIONAL FLAIR &045; Gamecocks forward Abdou Diame, who transferred from Auburn, continues a trend of Senegal players for LaPlante.

The fourth-year head coach, who spent four years as an assistant to Cliff Ellis at Auburn before becoming JSU’s sixth head coach in the spring of 2000, served as a consultant with the Senegalese Basketball Federation in helping to develop the game of basketball.

LaPlante was vital in getting former Tiger Mamadou N’Diaye to come to the states, where the seven-footer &045; especially known for his shot blocking skills &045; played being drafted into the NBA.

Denver drafted N’Diaye in 2000 before he was traded to Toronto.