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Four straight! Clayton State women pull away from rival Columbus State 72-62

Coming off the huge road victory on Monday at 23rd-ranked USC Aiken, the last thing the Clayton State Laker women's basketball team needed was a let-down against in-state rival Columbus State on Wednesday.

There were little to no worries in that department.

Paced by some strong production off the bench, Clayton State withstood a second-half rally and pulled away from the visiting Lady Cougars 72-62 at the Athletics and Fitness Center. The victory was the fourth straight for Clayton State, now 16-4 overall and 10-3 in the Peach Belt Conference.

The bench was a big difference in the game as the Lakers got a whopping 45 points from their reserves - the second-most bench production for Clayton state this season - to only 10 bench points for Columbus State (12-10, 5-7 PBC). In addition, the Lakers also forced 29 Columbus State turnovers.

The Lakers limited Columbus to only 33 percent shooting in the first half and took control for much of the first half. A jump shot by Shanrika Hardeman at the 4:29 gave Clayton State its largest lead of the first half, 34-14. Columbus State was able to trim the deficit to 12 points, but the Lakers still took a 38-24 lead in at halftime.

However, Columbus State and its junior standout forward Phebe Smith came alive in the second half. Smith scored 19 second-half points as the Cougars trimmed into the Laker lead.

Chauntel Ferdinand drained a 3-point basket for Columbus State, and a baseline jump shot by Jessica Edwards cut the Clayton State lead to 52-45 with 9:36 left.

Tanisha Woodard drained a running jump shot in transition to increase the Laker lead back to 13 points, 62-49 at the 6:40 mark. However, the Lady Cougars countered with a 12-2 run to cut the Laker lead to four points as Smith scored nine points during the rally. Her lay-up with 4:22 left cut the Clayton State lead to 64-60.

But Clayton State answered. Following a missed jumper by Columbus State, the Lakers' Nikkisha Pritchett scored on a fast-break lay-up and converted the 3-point play to put the Lakers back up by seven points. Pritchett drained a jump shot again at the 1:52 mark to give Clayton State a 69-62 lead.

Once again stellar off the bench, Pritchett paced Clayton State with 17 points, while Dominique Jennings scored 11 points off the bench. Woodard and fellow freshman guard Brittany Hall each added nine points for the Lakers.

Smith scored a game-high 21 points for Columbus State, while Rosetta Hollis scored nine points for the Lady Cougars

Clayton State travels to Augusta State for a key Peach Belt showdown on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.