Clayton State men rebound, pull off 54-49 grinder at Georgia Southwestern
AMERICUS, Ga. – February 15, 2012 – With it now becoming crunch time in the Peach Belt Conference, the Clayton State Laker men's basketball team stepped up tremendously on Wednesday night. The Lakers rebounded from Saturday's disappointing defeat at North Georgia to grind out a 54-49 triumph at in-state rival Georgia Southwestern.
The victory is the fifth in the last seven games for Clayton State, which improves to 15-8 overall and an even 7-7 in the Peach Belt. The Lakers sweep the season series from Georgia Southwestern, and Clayton State is now 5-2 in the Storm Dome under head coach Gordon Gibbons.
Georgia Southwestern has now dropped eight of its last nine to fall to 12-11 overall and 3-11 in the Peach Belt.
"We just completed a four-game road swing with two starters suspended for three of those games," said Gibbons. "But this team has come together and we are a stronger team now. These are always good games down here with a great atmosphere."
Clayton State has been without starters Anthony Salter and Andrew Bachanov due to suspension for the last three games, but both players will return to action on Saturday. However, Clayton State responded by shooting 50 percent from the field against Georgia Southwestern, including 59 percent in the second half.
The Lakers overcame a 13-0 Georgia Southwestern run by finishing the first half on a 10-0 run themselves. Tony Dukes drained a 3-point basket and center Tim Budd scored twice inside. A 3-point basket by Reco Lewis gave the Lakers a 24-18 lead at halftime.
Clayton State twice stretched the lead to 10 points early in the second half. Teondre Williams' back-door lay-up at the 11:31 mark gave the Lakers a 36-26 lead. But behind the gutsy play of guard Marlon Rivera, the Hurricanes stormed back.
Rivera sank a 3-point basket to pull Georgia Southwestern to within four points, and the Hurricanes took a one-point lead on a jumper in the lane and a 3-point basket by Jamon Hawkins with 5:23 remaining.
However, two lay-ups by Lewis and another by Budd put Clayton State ahead by seven points 50-43 with 2:06 remaining. Georgia Southwestern twice trimmed the Laker lead to three points on 3-point baskets by Rivera and Evan Mobley. The Hurricanes then retained possession on a Clayton State turnover with 30 seconds remaining.
But Dukes made the defensive play of the game for the Lakers when he blocked Mobley's 3-point attempt with 22 seconds remaining and got fouled on the play. The junior sank both free throws for the final five-point margin.
"We had some big back-door plays for lay-ups in the second half, and that kept our cushion for much of the time," Gibbons said. "Plus we made defensive stop after defensive stop and really played even with them on the boards."
Williams scored 16 points to pace Clayton State, followed 13 points each from Dukes and Budd. Lewis added 10 points for the Lakers. Rivera paced Georgia Southwestern with 20 points, while Hawkins scored 12 points and Mobley added 10 points.
Clayton State is back home on Saturday, playing host to in-state rival Columbus State in a key Peach Belt showdown at 7:30 p.m.