No worries

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2004

LORMAN &045; As stuffy as it was Saturday night in the Whitney Complex, Brian Jackson couldn’t have been any cooler.

On Senior Night and a spot at the SWAC tournament on the line, the Alcorn Braves were sitting on the verge of putting their game away with Prairie View and punching their ticket to Birmingham.

They had a lengthy run on the Panthers and a sizeable lead. But when Jackson got to the top of the key against Prairie View’s Joshua Thompson in the Panthers’ man-to-man defense, he toyed with Thompson a bit and drilled a huge 3-pointer.

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Seven minutes later the Braves finished off an 87-64 win and, more importantly, a spot next week in Birmingham.

&uot;We’ve got a play called ‘One on One,’ and everyone just goes one on one pretty much,&uot; said Jackson, who led the Braves with 23 points in his final home game. &uot;I was kind of feeling it. We wanted to put the nail in the coffin, and that’s what we did. We came out with a lot of intensity. We knew we had to win this game. It was our last game at home, and we had to come through.&uot;

Jackson’s triple was indeed a dagger in Prairie View, who just wouldn’t seem to go away up until about midway through the second half. The Panthers, too, were playing for a spot at the SWAC tournament and had to beat the Braves by eight or more to claim the final spot and keep the Braves at home.

Instead the Braves got the spot and will go into the tournament as the No. 8 seed. They’ll open with top-seeded Mississippi Valley State in the first round.

&uot;We knew if we got going and after the game from Thursday, we knew what we could do,&uot; Alcorn forward Dion Callans said. &uot;We made some shots, played some good defense, got a good lead and had some fun. It was Senior Night &045; a way to have fun on Senior Night. It was my mom’s first game to see me play this year. I wanted to come out strong and show my mom what I’ve been in the woods doing.&uot;

Jackson’s bomb followed a big spurt by the Braves that really put the game away. The Panthers had cut the lead to three at 53-44 with 13:30 left before the Braves got really going on both ends with some key 3-pointers and two pivotal steals from defensive specialist Corey Jackson.

Jackson converted a three-point play with 12:32 left following a Ray Dotson bucket, and that started a 14-3 run that ended with 3-pointers from Myles Howard and Trey Johnson for a 67-47 lead.

&uot;We knew they would come out aggressive after the first half,&uot; PV head coach Jerome Francis said. &uot;They knocked down some open shots, and we stopped playing after that. Turnover after turnover &045; turnovers against the three-quarters press &045; turnover, turnover, turnover. I’ve never seen a turnover go into the basket, but I’ve seen some bad shots. We’ve got to take care of the basketball.&uot;

Give credit to the Alcorn defensive effort in that stretch, and Corey Jackson had a steal there that set up Johnson’s 3-pointer. He had another steal in the stretch, and Howard’s steal set up that Brian Jackson 3-pointer for a 70-48 lead with 7:23 left.

That helped the lead go from 12 to 22 in just over three minutes.

&uot;That’s exactly what happened,&uot; ASU head coach Sam West said. &uot;The guys really played hard. They want to go to Birmingham. They did a good job. (Corey) got two steals in a row &045; a steal and a deflection. DeAndre (Jones) did a good job for us. DeAndre, Jerist Roberts and Corey Jackson did a great job for us.&uot;

The Panthers were plagued by foul trouble most of the game, and the Braves took advantage at the free throw line. They hit 13 of 16 free throws in the second half, including all four in an 11-0 run in the final five minutes.

The Panthers had the lead down to 14 by the 4:28 mark when they got a basket from big 6-11 Roderick Riley to trim it to 74-60, but the big man got his fifth foul three minutes later.

While the Braves hit 20 of 28 shots from the line for the game, the Panthers couldn’t counter and sank just 16 of 29.

&uot;They went to that post-up game and got us in foul trouble,&uot; Francis said. &uot;We made some adjustments in there, but we haven’t been able to work on it long enough. Basically, free throws keep you in the game and extend leads. If we would have made our free throws, it would have kept us in the game. With them being up nine (at half) and we make eight of eight, it would have been a one-point game.&uot;

The Panthers had cut the lead to 23-18 with 6:50 left in the first half but couldn’t get any closer. David McCollum hit a layup and later Brian Jackson &045; a solid 11-of-11 from the line &045; hit two free throws at the 2:37 mark for a 31-22 lead.

Brian Jackson later dunked one home at the 1:30 mark for a 33-24 lead, and the Braves led 35-26 at half.