From Staff Reports
GREENWOOD, S.C. -Needing a victory in the worst way possible, the Clayton State Laker men's basketball team put it all together on Saturday as the Lakers rolled to an impressive 63-46 Peach Belt Conference victory at Lander.
The defeat ends a six-game losing skid for Clayton State, now 13-12 overall and 6-12 in the Peach Belt Conference. In addition, it moves Laker head coach Gordon Gibbons within a victory of No. 400 for his illustrious Division II career.
"Since Jan. 3, we've had a gamut of emotions with our team," said Gibbons. "However, in our last four games, we've been totally focused and together, but not getting the breaks. Well tonight, we created the breaks in the second half with our defense.
"I'm so proud of these guys and the way they've been able to stick together through it all."
The Lakers reverted back to its defensive reputation this game, and it showed. Clayton State limited Lander (11-13, 7-11 PBC) to only 34 percent shooting from the field and only 25 percent shooting from 3-point range. That included limiting the Bearcats to only 25 percent (6-for-24) shooting from the field in the second half.
Clayton State built as big as a 14-point lead in the second half, only to have Lander trim the lead to 37-29 at halftime. Starting the second half, the Lakers scored only three points in the first seven minutes, and Lander trimmed the Clayton State lead to 40-37 on a Ford Lawrence 3-point basket13:04 mark.
However, instead of panicking, Clayton State responded. The Lakers answered with a 9-0 run as Will Lewis drained a 3-point basket, followed by a breakaway dunk off a Bearcat turnover. Another Lander turnover produced a transition lay-up by Clayton State's Jonathan Austin to give the Lakers a 49-37 lead with 11:17 left.
Lander never got closer than nine points after that. A put-back by Brenton Harris trimmed the Clayton State lead to 54-45 at the 6:14 mark. But the Lakers closed out the game on a 9-1 run. Bernard Fields scored twice on driving lay-ups, and a jump shot by Jaquas Dobbs at the 4:08 mark gave Clayton State a commanding 60-45 lead.
Fields paced a balanced Clayton State scoring attack with 11 points, followed by Lewis and Ricky Garrett each with 10 points. Senior forward Brian Kelly grabbed 10 rebounds, and moved ahead of former Clayton State teammate John Beugnot (2005-2007) for fifth-place all-time for the Lakers in rebounding.
The Lakers shot 44 percent from the field and 93 percent (14-for-15) from the free throw line for the game.
For Lander, Dane Sparrow scored 13 points and Lawrence scored 11 points. Harris added nine points and nine rebounds for the Bearcats.
Clayton State plays next on Wednesday at home against 14th-ranked USC Aiken at 7:30 p.m.