CONWAY, Ark. – The Jacksonville State men's basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational with an 80-59 win over Central Arkansas on Monday.
Sophomore Jacara Cross led the Gamecocks (23-12) to the 21-point victory with his first career double-double. The forward stepped up and scored 13 points with 13 rebounds in a season-high 18 minutes of play.
"Jacara played tough tonight," head coach Ray Harper said. "He's been playing great lately and helped us look like the team we are tonight. All except the first few minutes of the second half, we moved the ball well, made the extra pass and shot the ball well."
Jacksonville State shot 45 percent over the course of the game, posting its best average since hitting 55.6 percent of its shots in the second round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament against Tennessee Tech on March 1. Junior Marlon Hunter was 7-for-12 and was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc for 13 points.
The Gamecocks got out to a quick 8-0 lead, holding Central Arkansas (18-17) scoreless for nearly the first minutes of the game. It wasn't until the 15:09 mark of the first half that the Bears got on the board, going 0-for-9 prior to a layup by DeAndre Jones.
Minus the first nine missed shots, the Bears went on to shoot 54 percent, but JSU runs of nine, four and four kept the Gamecocks' lead to more than five points for the majority of the period. After reaching a half-best lead of 14, Jacksonville State went to the break with a 12-point, 42-30 advantage. Senior Malcolm Drumwright scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half alone.
The first few minutes of the second half didn't favor the Gamecocks, however, as mentioned by Harper. Within the first two minutes of the final period, UCA went on a 7-2 run to shorten JSU's lead to seven. Norbertas Giga scored the only two points during the run, while Central Arkansas was 3-for-3 from the field and forced a turnover to momentarily gain momentum.
Following a Jacksonville State timeout to halt the run, the Gamecocks found their groove and picked up where they left off at the end of the first half. Cross led a 9-1 run over the next five minutes with four points to push the Gamecocks' lead back to 15. The Bears coughed up the ball twice during the stretch and was 0-for-2 from the floor.
Through the final 10 minutes of the game, JSU outscored the Bears 24-13. Hunter scored a team-best 13 points during the stretch to put Central Arkansas away and secure the Gamecocks' 23rd win of the season.
Jacksonville State is now set to play in the semifinals of the CBI on Wednesday. Its opponent, site and tip time have not been determined.