Tuesday, December 23, 2014

GRU splits pair of home conference games

Winning basketball games can usually be tracked back to three key factors:  rebounding, turnovers, and good shot selection.  The first two usually affect the third because offensive rebounds and turnovers often lead to easy shots.  After flirting with trouble in these areas in a 68-58 home win over conference foe Georgia Southwestern Thursday, GRU Augusta suffered its second defeat of the season, and its first in Peach Belt action in a 72-67 home loss to Montavello Saturday.  Along with a long offensive drought, the Jaguars got clobbered on the boards Saturday, which was too much to overcome against a team as talented as Montavello (preseason Peach Belt favorites).

The first crack in the Jags' armor appeared Thursday during an 8 minute stretch in the second half when Georgia Southwestern scored 11 points off two offensive rebounds and three steals and took a brief 50-49 lead after trailing by 8 at halftime.  A quick 9 point spurt by senior D'Angelo Boyce sparked a 17-4 GRU run and the Jags would go on to a 68-58 victory in its Peach Belt opener at home.  Seniors Boyce (11 points), Devonte Thomas (17 points including 5 three pointers) and Devon Wright-Nelson (11 points) led the way.

Saturday's contest began well for the Jags as Thomas drilled 4 of his 5 three point attempts and made two free throws after being fouled on another try.  But as the first half wore on, the Jags looked tight offensively.  After scoring 15 points in the opening 6 minutes and taking a six point lead on a Wright-Nelson three, GRU managed only 16 points in the next 16 minutes before sophomore Keith Crump tapped in a Wright-Nelson miss at the first half buzzer to pull the Jags to within 1 point of Montavello at 34-33.

The dry spell would continue as GRU scored 18 points in the first 17 minutes of second half action and fall behind 61-50.  A late Jags run included 10 points from sophomore Keshun Sherrill and narrowed the deficit to 68-64 with :29 remaining, but the hole was too big for GRU to overcome.

The trouble scoring put a great deal of pressure on GRU's defense.  While Montavello patiently worked to get its guards in position to attack off the dribble, the Jaguars' initial defense was solid.  But Montavello rebounded 6 of its 13 second half misses and converted enough of the opportunities to retain the lead throughout.

Five Montavello players average 10 or more points per game this season.  Saturday's scoring was balanced as Troran Brown (16), Larry Slaughter (15), Bryant Orange (15), and Shykeem Jackson (10) led the way.  Thomas (23), Sherrill (15), and senior Henry McCarthy (10) led the Jags in defeat.  Montavello improved to 2-0 in conference play while GRU's conference record stands even at 1-1.  The Jags are 8-2 overall and look forward to hosting Wingate of the Southland Athletic Conference on December 31.

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