By Doug Gorman
As the college basketball season heads into the home stretch, the Clayton College and State University women's and men's basketball teams are each on a mission to make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
But before either squad makes its reservations to college basketball's post-season party, both teams have some unfinished business with the regular season, and it starts tonight with a Peach Belt Conference doubleheader at home against rival Kennesaw State.
CCSU women: For the Lady Lakers and first-year head coach Dennis Cox, this has been a record-setting year.
Clayton State enters tonight's 5:30 p.m. tip-off with a 19-6 overall record and an 11-4 mark in the Peach Belt Conference standings. The 19 wins tie a school record, while the 11 victories sets a school mark for league wins.
The Lady Lakers have already clinched a bye in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference tournament, starting March 1 in Augusta.
Clayton State comes into the game fresh off a 69-65 victory against Augusta State.
The Lady Lakers have won three in a row and five of the last six contests. Heading into the final week of the season, the Lady Lakers are ranked second in the South Atlantic Regional poll.
Clayton State has won with a balanced scoring attack. Jamika Hindsman leads the team with 13.8 points per game, Shelcey Harp 12.4 and Jasmine Patterson 11.5.
In the last meeting between the two schools earlier this month, the Lady Lakers rolled to a 91-63 victory. It was only the third time CCSU beat Kennesaw State.
The Lady Lakers used a 13-0 run in the second half to defeat Kennesaw on the Lady Owls' home court.
Harp hit on 7 of 9 shots from the floor and scored 21 points en route to the win.
CCSU men: After losing a heartbreaker Saturday afternoon to Augusta State, the Clayton College and State University men's basketball team doesn't need a whole lot of motivation to get ready to play tonight in the final home game of the season.
But just in case head coach Gordon Gibbons did need some incentive to get his team ready to play, all the Lakers have to do is look at the schedule.
On tap tonight is Kennesaw State.
The defending NCAA Division II national champs have turned into the Lakers' biggest rivals. The Owls come into the game ranked No. 2 in the national NCAA Division II poll.
With Kennesaw State getting ready to jump to the Division I level, time might be running out on the series. Add the fact that Clayton State is still trying to position itself for a bye at the Peach Belt Conference tournament, and there's plenty at stake tonight.
"We have played really inconsistently at times this year, but we are confident going into this game," said Gibbons.
In the last meeting between the two schools, Kennesaw State pulled away late and beat the Lakers 62-52.
Kennesaw State comes into the game with a 22-3 overall record and a 12-2 mark in the Peach Belt.
Clayton State enters with a 16-12 overall record and a 9-5 mark in the league,
Clayton State is led by Craig Butts with 17.3 points per game and B.J. Puckett with 11.1.
Rey Luque leads Kennesaw State with a 15.8 scoring average and Cardale Talley is averaging 12.6 points per game.
Despite both teams ability to put the ball in the basket, this game could come down to defense.
Whoever wins the battle of the boards is probably going to be the team to win this game," said Gibbons.