Jaguars lose focus in 72-63 home loss to Georgia State Panthers

By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor

Last Thursday night was the first home game of the Spring semester of 2020 for the South Alabama Jaguars Men’s basketball team. They were coming off an impressive 4-1-win streak against fellow Sun Belt Conference with three of those wins coming on the road. The Jaguars had a top tier in the Georgia State Panthers (12-6; 5-2 in Sun Belt play) that was a dangerous perimeter shooting team. Throughout the Jaguars would start out strong to start both halves of basketball but mental lapses and frustration plagued the Jaguars as they lost to the Panthers at home with a 72-63 score.

Photos by: Lauren Barksdale

The Jaguars started out on an 8-2 run one minute and 37 seconds into the game before the Panthers tied the game 10-10 five minutes and 19 seconds into the game. By the time eight minutes and 27 seconds passed by, the Jaguars were up 17-16 thanks to their impressive shot selections. The Jaguars were making 57.1% of their shots (8-of-14) but the Panthers were close thanks to their great perimeter for three’s as they were 4-for-7 from behind the three-point arc.

At the end of the first half, there were seven total lead changes between the Jaguars and the Panthers. The Jaguars were down 37-33 due to the 10 turnovers they encountered and their missed free-throws as they were 8-of-14 from the free-throw line. They were also allowing too many open shots from the three-point arc for Georgia State to capitalize on. Forward Josh Ajayi led the team with 11 points and six rebounds but also was blocked five times against the Panthers’ paint presence. Guard John Pettway scored seven points (2-for-5 on field goals) and guard Chad Lott scored nine points (4-for-8 on field goals).

Four minutes and 26 seconds into the second half, the Jaguars came back on a 13-3 run thanks to the great defense by Lott’s stealing ability and the eight points scored by Pettway. The Jaguars led as many as six points in the second half with 12:21 minutes left in the game with a 48-42 score.

Afterward, the Jaguars allow three straight three-point shots from the Panthers including two of them coming from guard Justin Roberts. The Jaguars continued to fall apart mentality by forcing the ball too much and missing without being called for fouls, turning the ball over, and allowing open space for the Panthers to sink in the three-point shots.

The Panthers led as many as 13 points with a 70-57 lead over South Alabama with 43 seconds left in the game. The Jaguars were able to bring the score down to a nine-point difference with a final score of 72-63 by playing until the final buzzer.

Forward Josh Ajayi led the Jaguars in 19 points by shooting 8-for-14 from field goals and 10 rebounds. Guard John Pettway accounted for 15 points by shooting 5-for-10 from field goals and four rebounds. The Jaguars were too aggressive in trying to draw a foul as they had seven of their shots blocked and turned the ball over 20 times. The Panthers had a very successful night shooting from the three-point line by shooting 15-for-35. The Jaguars were 15-for-24 from the free-throw line.

After the game, Pettway was asked about the blown leads and the frustrations in the first half and second and stated that they lost focus and mental lapses got the best of them. Head coach Richie Riley stated, “we’ve got to get to where we play THE game and not A game.” He mentioned the team is not in a position yet to where they are consistently winning against some of the top teams in the Sun Belt. Coach Riley also said, “We got to do better in closing out.”

The South Alabama Jaguars Men’s program (11-8; 4-4 in conference play) return to action this Saturday at home in the Mitchell Center this Saturday at 3 pm against another top-tier Sun Belt Conference foe in the Georgia Southern Eagles (12-7; 6-2 in conference play).