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Jax State stuns Trojans in tourney, 69-62

Sports Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. – An 80 percent foul shooter just doesn’t miss three foul shots in a row.

But in Robert Rushing’s case, it was understandable.

With two seconds left in the game, three consecutive free throws by Rushing wouldn’t have given the Troy State Trojans a win over Jacksonville State in Thursday’s first round game of the Atlantic Sun Conference Basketball Tournament.

The seventh-seeded Gamecocks upset No. 2-seed Troy State, 69-62.

The Trojans, who captured a share of the conference regular season title with a 79-60 win over JSU one week ago, ended the year with an 18-10 record. JSU improved to 13-14 and will face the winner of Belmont-Georgia State today in the second round.

The Gamecocks outrebounded the Trojans 33-18 and placed four players in double figures, including Auburn-transfer Jay Heard. Heard and Omar Barlett each had 19 points in the game, while Poonie Richardson scored 16 and Josh Perry added 13.

Lemayn Wilson had 20 points to lead the Trojans.

"It’s tough when you lose," said Troy State head coach Don Maestri.

"Especially when you have a good basketball team.

What’s really tough is losing our three seniors, Robert (Rushing), Lemayn (Wilson) and Donnie (Pemberton)."

Barlett and the Gamecocks took control early in the first half. The forward scored nine of the Jacksonville State’s first 11 points, building an 11-5 lead over the Trojans.

Barlett would pick up his second personal prior to the 10 minute mark of the first half and leave the game. Wilson would convert a three-point opportunity and two field goals by Donnie Pemberton and

Rushing gave TSU its first lead of the game, 12-11.

But the Trojans never could take advantage of Barlett’s absence.

Heard and Perry would match TSU basket-for-basket, before Rob Lewin and Pemberton combined on two shots to give Troy State its largest lead of the game, 24-20.

Richardson then scored eight points for Jax State and put the Gamecocks on top 28-26.

At halftime, JSU led by one point, 30-29.

Richardson and Heard hit consecutive 3-pointers for the Gamecocks to start the second half, but Wilson knocked down trey’s from the right and left corner and Ben Fletcher tied the game at 38-38 with his 3-point shot from the wing.

That, however, was the last tie of the ball game.

Jax State would extend its lead to seven points. The Trojans cut the lead to three on Herbert Evans’ 2-point shot with 2:53 left and Jacksonville State led 59-56.

The Trojans then had three straight chances to tie it up, before the Gamecocks went to the foul line and hit 10-of-12 free throws to end the game.

"This is a disappointing loss," Maestri said.

"We had some high expectations coming into the tournament.

We are still conference champions, and that means a lot."

Pemberton had 14 points for TSU and Rushing scored 11.