By Doug Gorman
Don't tell the Clayton State Lakers there is nothing to play for tonight when they travel up Interstate 75 for a Peach Belt Conference showdown with Kennesaw State University.
Sure, the Owls have just about clinched the Southern Division of the Peach Belt Conference standings, and they are ranked 10th in the latest NCAA Division II national poll, but the Lakers don't intend to concede the game to the team which has become CCSU's biggest rivals.
Kennesaw comes into the game with a 24-4 overall record and a 14-0 mark in PBC play.
The Lakers are 19-6 overall and 9-5 in conference action.
Clayton State needs the victory if it still hopes to finish second in the final regular-season standings. It would also go along way in helping the Lakers make their case for getting in the NCAA Division II tournament.
"The dynamics are in place for a great game," said Clayton State head coach Gordon Gibbons. "They have had a great run through the conference, and have no doubt clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament. They are playing for a No. 1 seed. It's a big night for them. This is their last regular-season home game in their old gym and its senior night."
Still, according to Gibbons, who just won his 300th-career game, the timing is right for the Lakers to crash the Owls' party.
Clayton State has won four of its last five games. The Lakers last loss was against Kennseaw when the Owls game to Morrow.
It's a game Gibbons said the Lakers should have won.
Clayton State led Kennesaw 27-22 at the end of the first half, but couldn't put the Owls away.
"We really felt like we let them off the hook," Gibbons said. "We remember that game and would love to beat them at their place in their own gym."
Since dropping the contest to the Owls, CCSU has beaten Georgia College and State University, North Florida and Augusta State.
"We are definitely playing some of our best basketball of the season right now," Gibbons said.
Players to Watch: Clayton State is lead offensively by B.J. Puckett (12.8 points per game) and Craig Butts (12.3).
Kennesaw is led by Terrence Hill (16.6) and Luque Rey (12.5).
Series Record: The Owls hold a commanding 17-7 lead in the all-time series. In Gibbons' first-season at CCSU, the Lakers beat the Owls twice. Kennesaw State has since won the last four games.
Women's action: The CCSU Lady Lakers and Kennesaw State Lady Owls start the basketball doubleheader tonight with a 5:30 p.m. tip off.
Clayton State has lost its last six games in a row, including an 84-74 defeat to Kennesaw meeting on the Lady Lakers own floor.
Kennsew is 17-8 overall and 9-5 in league action.
Team leaders: The Clayton State women's team is led in scoring by Jamika Hindsman (11.8 points per game) and Apryl Brown (11.1).
Kennesaw State is led by Denisah Ferguson (20.6 points per game).