The Morehead State men's basketball knocked down its first 19 free-throw attempts in the second half, posted a 38-26 rebounding advantage and held on for a 69-67 Ohio Valley Conference victory over Jacksonville State on Thursday evening (Feb. 13) at Mathews Coliseum.
The Eagles, who have won nine of their last 12 contests, improve to 17-9 overall, 8-3 in the league and 8-5 on the road. The Gamecocks, who have lost eight of their last 11, slip to 10-17 overall, 4-8 in the conference and 7-4 at home. The win also moves MSU to 19-8 in the all-time series against JSU.
"I'm disappointed with the way we played tonight, but an ugly win beats a pretty loss any day of the week," Head Coach Sean Woods said. "We didn't execute very well, but I'm happy our young men found a way to win in a tough road environment. We will gladly take this victory and move forward."
Morehead State drilled 79 percent (26-of-33) from the charity stripe, including 83 percent (24-of-29) in the second half. The Eagles posted a 10-point edge from the foul line.
Morehead State, which leads the conference in total rebounds, offensive boards and rebounding margin, started with a 9-2 advantage on the glass and never looked back. The Eagles tallied a 21-14 edge in the opening stanza and 15-8 upper hand in second-chance points for the affair.
Senior Drew Kelly paced MSU with 19 points on 7-of-11 from the field, while junior Angelo Warner added 16 points. Warner, who has played in 90 career games, needs just seven more points for 1,000. Kelly, who has played in 115 career contests, needs only 59 more for the same feat.
"Drew played like a senior tonight and helped us pull out a win over a quality opponent," Woods said. "He didn't do anything fancy, but had a solid effort. Drew hit a three on the first possession of the game and continued to produce. He was patient and took what the defense gave him."
Senior Chad Posthumus, who leads the nation in rebounds per game, pulled down a game-best 11. It was his 18th double-figure effort this season and the 24th of his career. Sophomore Brent Arrington made 9-of-10 from the free-throw stripe in the second half for all of his points.
Freshman Undra Mitchem led a balanced Jacksonville State scoring attack with 13 points. Three other Gamecocks reached the 10-point plateau. Junior D.J. Felder collected a team-high seven rebounds for JSU, while two of his teammates registered three assists apiece.
Jacksonville State turned 19 Morehead State turnovers into 24 points, while the Eagles recorded just five points on 11 Gamecock miscues. JSU also managed a 13-6 edge in fast-break points.
"We had way too many turnovers, and some of those mistakes are hard to explain," Woods said. "You're not going to win many games on the road with 19 turnovers. We have some really good guards on this team, but those guys didn't value the basketball tonight like they normally do."
Morehead State led for the first 19 minutes of the game. Jacksonville State used a 12-0 run late in the first half to snatch a 27-25 advantage heading into the locker room at intermission. The contest's sixth-and-final tie was at 51 with 8:16 to play. The Eagles then manufactured a 5-0 spurt to go up by two possessions. JSU got no closer than two points the rest of the way.
Morehead State continues to build on its best season since 2010-11. The Eagles tallied just 15 total victories and four road wins last year. MSU also stays in third place overall in the OVC.
Morehead State wraps up its league road trip on Saturday (Fe. 15) at Tennessee Tech (13-13, 6-5). The game, which follows MSU and TTU in women's hoops, is set to tip-off around 8:30 p.m.
"Tennessee Tech has knocked off Belmont and Eastern Kentucky in the past few weeks, so we will have to play well on Saturday night to get a win," Woods added. "Our focus needs to be one game at a time. If we control our own destiny, everything else will take care of itself."