Aiming to rebound from its first defeat of the 2008-09 season, the Clayton State Laker men's basketball team came up short on its quest on Wednesday, falling 61-57 at in-state Peach Belt Conference rival Columbus State at the Lumpkin Center.
The defeat drops Clayton State to 9-2 overall and 2-2 in the Peach Belt.
"The game was there for us to take, so it's disappointing," said Clayton State head coach Gordon Gibbons. "We responded well and were eager to finish. Our problem is not effort, it's execution."
For the second straight game, the Lakers endured an abysmal first half, shooting only 25 percent from the field, 11 percent from 3-point range and committing 13 turnovers. After cutting Clayton State cut the Columbus State lead to 13-12 on a driving lay-up by Freddie Williams with 9:45 remaining, the Cougars exploded on a 13-2 run.
Columbus State forced six turnovers during the rally, and Rye Zinder's jump shot with 3:45 remaining gave the Cougars a 26-14 lead. A lay-up off a loose ball by Nick Gagnon gave Columbus State its largest lead of the first half, 31-17 with 1:35 remaining.
"The first half was Columbus State playing very hard and they literally punched us in the face," Gibbons said. "But I give our team credit. They went to work, we simplified some stuff and the confidence changed."
Went to work the Lakers did. Trailing 42-26 with 15:37 remaining, Clayton State went on a tremendous 20-4 run over the next eight minutes.
Bernard Fields drained two big 3-point baskets to trim the Columbus State lead to 44-37 with 12:52 remaining. The Lakers then got a dunk by Michael Thorogood, and two free throws by Ricky Garrett at the 7:04 tied the game at 46-46.
However, Columbus State responded. Keonte Keith drilled a running jump shot in the lane, and followed with a 3-point play off a missed Clayton State jumper. Clayton State trimmed the Cougar lead to 53-51 on a lay-up by Eric Wilson at the 4:16 mark, but Columbus State answered with a huge 3-point basket by Carlos Wright.
The Lakers cut the deficit to 59-56 on a Fields lay-up with 21 seconds remaining, but Columbus State iced it with two free throws by Owen Brow with 19 seconds remaining.
Fields paced Clayton State with 18 points, while Freddie Williams scored 12 points and Jaquas Dobbs added 11 points off the bench. For Columbus State (4-5, 2-1 PBC), Brow scored 12 points, followed by Keith with 11 points and Javarus Stewart scored 10 points.
Clayton State is off this weekend.
The Lakers return to action next Wednesday (Jan. 14) at home against rival Georgia Southwestern.