JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- On a pair of made free throws with under four seconds to go, Kennesaw State sophomore guard Kristina Wells put the Owls in the win column at Jacksonville State with a 51-50 thriller at Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Wells (Douglasville, Ga./Douglasville County HS) went to the line with just three ticks left on the game clock after being fouled by Jacksonville State's Marikate Gardler with the Owls down one, 50-49. With a ruckus student section behind the basket, a composed Wells sank both freebies to give the black and gold their second win of the year (2-5) after a failed buzzer beater attempt from JSU (0-6).
Prior to Wells' game winner, the Gamecocks went on a 4-0 run to tie it up at 47-47 with just over two minutes to go. After 1:30 scoreless drought for both teams, it was the senior Sametria Gideon (Madison, Ala./Bob Jones HS) that put KSU up by two with a bank shot at the :25 mark, 49-47. The Gamecock's Dashuana Truss then hit on a three from the wing with 10-seconds to go to put the home team up, 50-49, before Wells was fouled.
"I think we played very resilient basketball," said Kennesaw State head coach Nitra Perry of the win. "The game was full of runs and ups and downs for both teams and I'm proud of our girls for going out and staying composed and running our plays. Sametria nailed it when we needed her to and Kristina went to the line and found a way to score. It was a big time play and I felt like she wanted that play. She stepped up like I'd been challenging her all year to do."
The Owls led for the entirety of the second half until the three by Truss after taking over the game on a Gideon layup at the 7:04 mark in the first half. The teams played back-and-forth down the stretch before halftime with Ashley Holliday (Greenville, S.C./J.L. Mann HS) putting in her third three-pointer of the period to put the Owls up, 30-27. Bria Young (Suwanee, Ga./Collins Hill HS) was good on a free throw just before the buzzer to put the halftime score at 31-27 KSU.
Gideon extended the lead to six points with a layup right out of the break, the biggest lead of the game for the Owls at 33-27. After the Gamecocks tied it twice more in the second half, the Owls went back up by five on free throws by Young and Gideon with under five minutes to play. The black and gold then led up until the big three by Truss.
"In the timeouts we talked about who wants it more," said Perry. "I told them the team who does is going to dive for balls, box out and make plays and that's what we did."
For the first time this season the Owls outrebounded and scored more points in the paint than their opponent, bringing in a season high 48 rebounds to JSU's 36 and putting up 24 points in the paint compared to the Gamecock's 22.
"I credit that to it not just being Sametira in there alone," said Perry. "Our guards got in there and we were able to put Holliday back in the lineup. It really forced them to respect our guards and then we could drive with Ashley. She can get in there and score and she's just a very smart player."
The Owls rallied behind 13-point outings by Gideon, Holliday and Mason with Gideon earning her fourth double-double of the year with 12 rebounds. Holliday was good for three of the Owl's four three-pointers after earning her first spot in the KSU starting five this season. Chantel Kennedy (Brooklyn, N.Y./Colorado St.) also chipped in with her 12 rebounds.
KSU showed their tenacity with seven steals, three of those from Kennedy and a pair from Holliday.
JSU got into foul trouble during the game as well, committing 19 personal fouls and sending the Owls to the line 21 times. The Owls, one of the top 15 teams in the nation in fewest fouls per game, were guilty of just 10 fouls, below their season average, allowing JSU just seven trips to the charity stripe.
"We're growing up," added Perry. "A win on the road is huge and it doesn't matter where you are. It's huge and I'm proud of them."
The Owls will next travel to Georgia State on Sunday, Dec. 2, as the black and gold take on the Panthers at 2 p.m. in the rivalry matchup.
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