Jackson State (18-14) vs. Alabama State (21-9)
Saturday, March 14th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By John Agovino, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Fair Park Arena (6,000) -- Birmingham, Alabama. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Jackson State 9-0, Alabama State 10-1. Away Record: Jackson State 6-13, Alabama State 8-7. Neutral Record: Jackson State 3-1, Alabama State 3-1. Conference Record: Jackson State 15-3, Alabama State 16-2. Series Record: Jackson State leads, 42-24.
GAME NOTES: For the third straight season the Jackson State Tigers will play in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament championship game, as they take on the top-seeded Alabama State Hornets this evening at Fair Park Arena in Birmingham.
The Tigers are on a roll at the perfect time, winning five consecutive games, and 13 of their last 14 matchups. Jackson State, which is playing out of the second seed, opened tournament play with a 72-65 victory over Texas Southern, and followed that with a 66-53 decision over Prairie View A&M. Jackson State won its fifth league title in 2007, but fell just short of its sixth this past season with a loss to Mississippi Valley State in the conference championship.
As for the Hornets, they have captured this title twice, with the last one coming in 2004. Alabama State, which claimed the regular season title with a 16-2 ledger, started this event with a 70-58 win over Alabama A&M. In semifinal action the Hornets outlasted Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 63-55. Alabama State is also playing outstanding basketball, winning three in a row and 12 of its last 13 contests.
Earlier this season the Hornets stung the Tigers with a 66-60 victory. However, Jackson State bounced back later in the year with a 67-64 decision over Alabama State. Overall, the Tigers have a comfortable 42-24 edge in the all-time series.
The Tigers were ferocious at the defensive end of the floor in their victory over Prairie View A&M, as Jackson State limited their opponent to just 53 points on a pathetic 30.4 percent shooting effort. Jackson State allowed Prairie View A&M to connected on only 5-of-18 three-point attempts and also collected 15 turnovers in the win. Grant Maxey led the way offensively for Jackson State, as the guard scored 15 points. Darrion Griffin and Garrison Johnson added 11 points apiece in the win, while Jeremy Caldwell tallied seven points, to go along with a team-best 11 rebounds. On the season it has been Maxey who has done most of the damage, as the guard is posting 16.4 ppg, to go along with a team-best 6.7 rpg. Griffin is contributing 14.9 ppg, and 5.6 rpg, while Caldwell is chipping in with 11.8 ppg, and 6.7 rpg.
The Hornets have used a swarming defensive approach on the year, and come into the title contest holding opponents to just 63.6 ppg, on a pedestrian 39.7 percent shooting effort. Alabama State continued its strong defensive play in its victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, as the Hornets held the Golden Lions to just 55 points on a weak 28.6 percent shooting effort. At the other end of the floor the Hornets did not fare much better however, as the team shot just 33.9 percent, but was able to use an 18-of-26 clip from the foul line. Andrew Hayles was the only player in double figures for Alabama State, finishing the game with 16 points. Chief Kickingstallionsims chipped in with eight points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Brandon Brooks, who is leading the team with 14.0 ppg on the season and 203 assists, was held to just seven points and five assists in the win. Other than Brooks, Hayles is the only other player netting double figures on the year, posting 13.5 ppg.
Jackson State is no stranger to the big game in the SWAC, and should be prepared for another grueling matchup. The Hornets were the league's top team through most of the year however, and will likely finish what they started.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama State 67, Jackson State 62
03/14 10:27:50 ET