1753 total votes.
Jackson State University’s men’s basketball team proved Saturday afternoon it just might be the best one-win squad in the country.
Following the team’s 86-62 defeat at No. 25 Kansas, however, the Tigers were convinced they’d just lost to one of the top one-loss schools in the nation.
JSU coach Tevester Anderson has a vote in college basketball’s Top-25 coaches poll. Anderson said his next vote would reflect just how impressed he was with the Jayhawks’ performance.
“I think they deserve to be a little bit higher than 20, 25,” Anderson said after KU handed his team its largest margin of defeat this season. “They’re really a 15, 16 ranking right now in the Top 25, and that’s where I’m going to vote for them this week, at least in the top 15.”
But that kind of praise for Kansas (7-1) should speak volumes about what Jackson State (1-8) accomplished on Saturday inside Allen Fieldhouse — for one half, at least.
The smaller Tigers came back from a 17-0 Kansas run in the first half to take the lead, 26-25, on De’Suan Dixon’s free throw with 4:15 left. JSU flustered KU with a pesky 2-3 zone and even outrebounded KU by five (22-17) in the first half, going to the halftime break down only five points. Second-chance opportunities helped send the Tigers to the free-throw line 17 times in the opening 20 minutes to the Jayhawks’ four.
“We just wanted to box out and be aggressive going to the boards,” said Tigers forward Grant Maxey, who scored 14 first-half points on his way to a team-high 19. “Our scouting report said they like to rebound and come aggressive, but they also don’t like to box out.”
In the second half, the Jayhawks found their stroke from long-range against the Tigers’ zone (7-for-14 second-half threes), and JSU’s leg-weary starters finally buckled offensively.
This is a Jackson State team, after all, that has been home in Mississippi for exactly one day since Nov. 19, playing few cupcakes on its early-season slate.
To this point, Jackson State has played road games that included Louisiana State, Texas A&M;, Illinois, Arizona State and now Kansas.
In total, the Tigers’ eight losses have come to schools with a combined 42-11 record entering Saturday’s play.
Only one of those teams could top the Tigers’ list: KU.
“We’ve played several teams of this caliber,” Anderson said. “This is the best shooting team we’ve played. We thought our zone defense would help us some, but they shot the ball extremely well.”
For Maxey, the decision was a no-brainer.
“Best team and best fans,” Maxey said of KU. “When the fans get into it, (the Jayhawks) get an extra boost and start going on those big runs. We tried to keep the fans out of it, tried to keep it a close game. The fans were real good here, so I feel that it’s their sixth man here.”