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Men’s basketball gets big home win

This game marked Ajayi’s fifth in the last six games in which he had double-digit scoring. Photo courtesy of USAjaguars

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This game marked Ajayi’s fifth in the last six games in which he had double-digit scoring. Photo courtesy of USAjaguars

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The University of South Alabama (12-12, 5-6 SBC) topped University of Arkansas Little Rock (5-20, 2-10 SBC) 73-56 in a home conference matchup at the Mitchell Center Thursday night to end a threegame losing streak.

In the Jags’ second-biggest win over a conference team, Trhae Mitchell was one of three Jags who shot double figures as he went 8-of-12 from the field in his 32 minutes of play. Mitchell also snatched seven rebounds. Forward Josh Ajayi had 16 points, making 5-of-14 with six of those from the free-throw line. This game marked Ajayi’s fifth in the last six games in which he had double-digit scoring. Sophomore guard Herb McGee had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in 23 minutes of play. Freshman guard John Pettway had a career-high eight points and four assists. Senior forward Nick Davis had a gamehigh nine rebounds.

“The one thing we talked about coming into this game was playing with energy, effort and enthusiasm and as great teammates,” head coach Matthew Graves said. “Those things are the controllables. Tonight, it was good to see guys smile and play hard for each other. I was really pleased with the overall outcome.”

Pettway’s three-pointer closed out the first half with the Jags on top 34-30. The momentum shifted in the Jags’ favor at the beginning of the second half when Mitchell made a three-pointer, igniting a 12-2 run for a 46-32 lead early into the half, which is what Graves wanted to see.

“Coming out of the second half, we started slow and we wanted to pick things up, get after it and extend the floor with the press a little bit,” Graves said. “We did a good job of forcing them to play faster than they wanted to and that allowed us to get some transition looks.”

Graves contributed the win in part to players off the bench who helped give the starters motivation.

“Guys like John Pettway and Joe Thompson off the bench were really huge for us,” Graves said. “When those guys come in off the bench, that gives our other guys confidence. Those guys played really well for us. When they were faceguarding, double-teaming Rodrick [Sikes], it opens up the floor for everybody else, and sometimes, your job is to stand there and watch everybody else drive the ball, get the ball in the paint and space the floor.”

The defensive effort on the Jags’ part also was factor to the team’s win.

“We did a good job of flying around and being aggressive,” Graves said. “I thought we executed that well. Tonight we were able to coach execution and I was really proud of our guys.”

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Men’s basketball gets big home win