Anunoby carries Jefferson City past Marquette

Jefferson City's O.G. Anunoby drives past Marquette's Spencer Osterman (42) and Jason Powers (12) and slams home a fourth period dunk in front of the Jays' student section.

Jefferson City's O.G. Anunoby drives past Marquette's Spencer Osterman (42) and Jason Powers (12) and slams home a fourth period dunk in front of the Jays' student section. Photo by Kris Wilson.

O.G. Anunoby doesn’t need to score 25 points a night for the Jefferson City Jays to be successful. The impact the junior forward makes in other areas is just as crucial.

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Adam Stillman reports

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While Anunoby paced the Jays with 17 points during their 55-45 victory against the Marquette Mustangs on Friday night at Fleming Fieldhouse, his 13 rebounds and five blocks were just as important.

“It’s what makes him so valuable to our basketball team,” Jefferson City head coach Blair Thompson said. “He’ll play on both ends, not to mention rebounding. I think the reason he’s so good still is he continues to get other people involved. He’s just a competitor, he loves playing and he’s as happy when other people have success. I think that is consistent throughout our basketball team.”

There might have been no better example of that than in the fourth quarter. After throwing down a two-handed slam 45 seconds into the final period to hand the Jays a 38-34 advantage, Anunoby didn’t score again until canning a couple free throws with 29 seconds to play.

He didn’t need to. His teammates picked up the slack.

“He’s unselfish, he waits for the game to come to him,” Thompson said.

Ahead 38-36, the Jays scored 10 straight points to take control of the game.

It started with a layup from Jake White. Darion Jones followed with a mid-range jumper before Harold Robertson drained a wide-open 3-pointer from the baseline thanks to an Anunoby screen. A couple more free throws from Robertson and a foul shot from Jones handed the Jays a 45-36 edge with 3:10 left.

“It was big because it helped us score in the end and gave them some confidence,” Anunoby said of trusting his teammates.

Free throws down the stretch sealed the deal, as the Jays went 10-for-12 from the foul line in the final period.

White and Jones both tossed in 11 points for the Jays.

“Jake’s a blue-collar guy,” Thompson said. “He’s going to get in there and be physical and push and shove within the rules. He’s not scared to stick his face in there and get after it a little bit.

“Darion draws the toughest assignment every time out. Drew another tough one tonight and did a fairly decent job at keeping (Brooks Gerrity) in front of him so we didn’t have to help off the other shooters. We had some breakdowns at times, but not enough to where we couldn’t talk about it and get it taken care of.”

When the breakdowns did occur, Anunoby was there to help.

“Defensively he’s probably as important as he is offensively,” Thompson said. “He’s an intimidating presence in there. We’re able to put a little bit more pressure on the ball around the perimeter to where if we do get beat, O.G.’s usually there to help. With his length and athleticism, that’s tough to make a shot.”

The Jays led 14-12 after one quarter with the aid of two 3-pointers from Lucas Theroff.

“He stepped up and hit two big ones early to get us off the mat and get us going,” Thompson said.

Jefferson City created some separation in the second quarter, using a 9-0 run to go up 26-14. Anunoby scored seven of those points — two baskets off offensive rebounds and a 3 from the top of the key. Anunoby sat on 11 points at halftime as the Jays owned a 26-19 advantage.

That’s when Marquette started to creep back in the game. Thanks to a trio of 3s from Jason Powers, the Mustangs pulled within 34-31 late in the quarter before a dunk from Anunoby put the score at 36-31 entering the final quarter.

“We had to scratch and claw for everything we got,” Thompson said. “Marquette is a good team. Well-coached, ran their stuff well, didn’t turn the ball over. They really made us pay for any mistakes our breakdowns we had defensively.”

Marquette then got within two points twice in the fourth period before the Jays pulled away.

“It was a good win,” Anunoby said.

Gerrity paced the Mustangs (6-9) with 14 points, Powers added 12 and Sean McCracken had 10.

Jefferson City (13-7), which has won seven of eight games, hosts Hickman at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“It comes down to the guys on this team, their attitude and buying in,” Thompson said. “Everybody is playing for their teammates. When we’re doing that we’re pretty good. We play hard. We have some pretty good basketball players on the team here. I’m excited for them. Winning is not easy. Fortunately they’ve bought in and they’re experiencing some success, and I’m extremely happy for everybody in our locker room right now.”

Jefferson City won the JV game 39-27 behind 12 points from Rhylin Spence.

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