By R.L. Bynum
Brandon Huffman’s Jacksonville State team looked like it was going to get blown out Tuesday night, trailing by 20 points to ASUN Conference rival Lipscomb 4½ minutes into the second half.
Huffman’s rebound and follow shot cut the deficit to two with 4:59 left and the Gamecocks finished off the rally for an 88–83 victory.
After Huffman blocked a shot with 1:28 left, Jacksonville State took the lead for good on Demaree King’s 3-pointer with 19 seconds left.
Huffman finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two steals. He has scored in double figures in eight of the Gamecocks’ 15 games and has at least seven rebounds in seven games.
Jacksonville State (9–6) is tied for the league lead with Bellarmine at 2–0. The Gamecocks have won four games in a row and haven’t lost since falling 65–59 at Alabama on Dec. 18.
Garrison Brooks blocked a career-high four shots in Mississippi State’s 88–72 home win Wednesday over Georgia (5–11, 0–3 SEC) for Georgia’s fifth consecutive defeat.
Brooks had eight blocks in the first 14 games before his four against Georgia. His best previous game total was three blocks three times for Carolina: Nov. 6, 2019, against Notre Dame, Nov. 29, 2019, against Oregon in the Bahamas and Jan. 5, 2021, at Miami.
Brooks struggled with his shot, going 2 of 7 from the floor, including missing both 3-point attempts, and finished with four points, four rebounds and an assist. It was his third game this season with four or fewer points.
Mississippi State (11–4, 2–1) played its second consecutive game without 6–11 forward Tolu Smith, who led the SEC in rebounding last season, because of a foot injury.
No. 4 Auburn knocked off visiting No. 24 Alabama 81–77 on Tuesday despite Walker Kessler fouling out for the second consecutive game and scoring only two points.
Auburn (15–1, 4–0 SEC) has won 12 consecutive games and figures to move up in the rankings with a win Saturday against Mississippi.
In one of his worst games of the season, Kessler got his points on a second-half dunk, and had two rebounds, one assist and three turnovers in 13 minutes. He picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a stretch of eight seconds, fouling out with 5:07 left in the game on a charging call.
While Kessler has eight double-figure scoring efforts in 16 games, Tuesday marked his third game this season with two or fewer points. It was his first since going scoreless when he played only eight minutes before getting hurt Dec. 4 against Yale.
It was Kessler’s first game this season without a block, although he tried and failed to swat JD Davison’s shot shortly before fouling out. That slam was ESPN’s top play on “SportsCenter” Top 10 plays that night.
Seventh Woods battled foul trouble in Morgan State’s 88–81 overtime victory Monday at South Carolina State, the MEAC opener for both teams. He picked up his third foul with 14:03 left in the game and immediately got his fourth because of a technical foul.
He started for the fourth consecutive game but played only 16 minutes, finishing with three points on a 3-pointer (shown on video below), five assists and two rebounds.
It was only the second game since Dec. 18 for the Bears (6–7, 1–0 MEAC), who went on a COVID-19 pause.
Jeremiah Francis was scoreless in four minutes off the bench with two assists in New Mexico’s 85–56 Tuesday loss at UNLV. The Lobos, who fell to 7–9 overall and 0–3 in the Mountain West, were playing without first-year coach Richard Pitino, who is in COVID-19 protocols.
It was New Mexico’s worst loss since a 36-point setback against Utah State on Jan. 8, 2021.
Walker Miller, Coach King Rice and Monmouth are scheduled to play for the first time since Dec. 22 on Friday in a MAAC road game with Saint Peter’s. The Hawks (10–3, 2–0) had multiple games postponed because of COVID-19 issues in the program.
In The News & Observer, C.L. Brown wrote about how second chances given to Rice by head coaches have shaped his coaching style.
Rice says that Dean Smith’s reaction to his alcohol-fueled charges while a player at UNC in 1990 and Kevin Stallings’ reaction when Rice faced DUI charges in 1996 while coaching on his Illinois staff changed his life. Rice says he’s been sober for 25 years.
How the seven former Tar Heels did
Garrison Brooks, Mississippi State center
88–72 Wednesday win vs. Georgia — Started; 26 minutes, 4 points, 2–7 FG, 0–2 3FG, 0–1 FT, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks, +12
Season statistics — 15 games, 15 starts, 10.8 points, 46.4 FG%, 34.3% 3FG%, 76.9% FT%, 6.7 rebounds; season totals of 11 assists, 12 blocks, 4 steals
Up next — 6 p.m. Saturday vs. Alabama, SEC Network; 6:30 Wednesday at Florida, SEC Network
Jeremiah Francis, New Mexico guard
85–56 Tuesday loss at UNLV — 4 minutes, 0 points, 0–1 FG, 0–1 3FG, 2 assists
Season statistics — 7 games, 2.0 points, 40.0% FG, 2–6 3FG; season totals of 5 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 block
Up next — 5:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Boise State, FS1; 10 p.m. Wednesday at Colorado State, CBS Sports Network
Brandon Huffman, Jacksonville State forward/center
88–83 Tuesday win vs. Lipscomb — Started; 26 minutes, 14 points, 7–9 FG, 7 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 1 block, 2 steals, +10
Season statistics — 15 games, 15 starts, 9.7 points, 63.7 FG%, 63.8 FT%, 5.7 rebounds; season totals of 3 assists, 15 blocks and 8 steals
Up next — 6 p.m. Saturday at Eastern Kentucky, ESPN+; 7 p.m. Tuesday at Central Arkansas, ESPN+
Walker Kessler, Auburn forward/center
81–77 Tuesday win at Alabama — Started; 13 minutes, 2 points, 1–1 FT, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 fouls, 3 turnovers, +1
Season statistics — 16 games, 16 starts, 9.4 points, 58.3 FG%, 17.4% 3FG, 62.5 FT%, 7.3 rebounds; season totals of 14 assists, 64 blocks, 14 steals
Up next — 8:30 Saturday vs. Mississippi, SEC Network; 9 p.m. Wednesday vs. Georgia, ESPNU
Walker Miller, Monmouth forward
Season statistics — 13 games, 13 starts, 14.9 points, 48.9 FG%, 34.6 3FG%, 85.5 FT%, 6.8 rebounds; season totals of 11 assists, 13 blocks, 8 steals
Up next — 7 p.m. Friday at Saint Peter’s; 2 p.m. Sunday at Marist, ESPN3
Andrew Platek, Siena guard
Out for the season after having surgery to repair a full tear in the Achilles tendon in his left leg
Season statistics — 5 games, 3 starts, 9.0 points, 40.9 FG%, 31.3 3FG%, 4–4 FT, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists
Seventh Woods, Morgan State guard
88–81 OT Monday win at South Carolina State — Started; 16 minutes, 3 points, 1–3 FG, 1–2 3FG, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers
Season statistics — 7 games, 3 starts, 7.4 points, 52.8 FG%, 33.3 3FG%, 2.1 rebounds; season total of 20 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Up next — 4 p.m. Saturday vs. Coppin State; 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22 vs. Howard
Photo via @JSUGamecocksMBB