NEW ORLEANS — The Southern men’s basketball team came close.
Close wasn’t enough.
In a game that included four ties and eight lead changes, the Jaguars were within two points of Jacksonville State with less than two minutes left Saturday. But Brian Williams drained a 3-pointer and Darion Rackley sank two free throws, and the Gamecocks pulled away for a 55-50 on the second day of the Skip Prosser Tournament at Fogelman Arena.
Jacksonville State (3-6) trailed Southern (3-6) by seven points after Derick Beltran hit two free throws midway through the second half, giving the Jaguars a 42-35 lead. But the Gamecocks outscored Southern 15-8 the rest of the way.
SU lost despite holding a 42-36 edge in rebounds and making 10 of 13 shots at the free-throw line. The Jaguars also held JSU to 30-percent shooting from the floor.
But Southern also had 20 turnovers, and it got only two points from its bench players.
Russell Hill — who had 18 points in the Jaguars’ 66-57 win over MacMurray College on Friday night — was the only SU reserve to score Saturday, hitting two free throws. SU’s bench was 0-for-9 from the floor as its starters logged heavy minutes.
The Jaguars made only two 3-pointers.
Beltran scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Quinton Doggett added seven points and a team-high nine rebounds. Jameel Grace had nine points, seven assists and six turnovers in 40 minutes, one of three SU starters to play 35 or more.
The Jaguars took an early 11-2 lead, but Jacksonville State chipped away and trailed by only one point at halftime, 21-20.
Southern pulled ahead by seven points with 9:24 remaining when Beltran hit two free throws, and the Jaguars held a small lead for much of the second half.
But Tarvin Gaines gave JSU its first lead of the second half, 44-42, when he hit a 3-pointer with 6:00 left.
Moments later, Beltran tied the score one final time with a layup, and the Jaguars pulled to within two points, 48-46, with 2:48 left on a jumper by Cameron Monroe.
SU never got any closer.
Stephen Hall led Jacksonville State with 13 points, and Gaines added 12.
Nick Cook had four points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Southern plays Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond at 7 p.m. Monday.