From Staff Reports
Over the years, the English Jones Center at UNC Pembroke has been a tough destination for the Clayton State Laker women's basketball team. Saturday was no exception.
Clayton State expected and got a strong challenge from the Lady Braves. However, a late second-half charge proved to be the difference as the Lakers pulled away with an 82-61 victory in its Peach Belt Conference opener. The victory keeps ninth-ranked Clayton State undefeated at 9-0 overall. UNC Pembroke falls to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Peach Belt.
"The score is not indicative of what kind of game it was," said Clayton State head coach Dennis Cox. "This is a tough place to play, and this is arguably the most talented UNC Pembroke team I've seen since I've been at Clayton State. For 30 minutes today, it was a tight game."
The first half produced three ties and five lead-changes as Clayton State led by as many as 11 points. The Lakers took the lead for good, 14-12 on a 3-point basket by Tanisha Woodard. Clayton State stretched the lead to eight points, 22-14 on another long 3-point basket by Woodard at the 5:26 mark.
After the Lady Braves trimmed the lead to five points, Clayton State went back up by 11 points, 33-22 on a jump shot by Teshymia Tillman with 1:46 remaining. However, UNC Pembroke cut the Laker lead to 36-30 at halftime on a 3-point basket by Kristen Hobbs.
Early in the second half, UNC Pembroke twice trimmed the Laker lead to two points. A lay-up by Domonique Washington at the 14:46 mark cut the Clayton State lead to 45-43. That's when the Lakers made their move.
Ahead 49-45, Clayton State went on a 13-3 run over a six-minute span to take control. Brittany Hall drained a 3-point basket to start the rally, and then scored on a driving lay-up to give the Lakers a 54-45 lead with 11:21 remaining. Latonda Bruce followed with a lay-up, and a driving lay-up in transition by Drameka Griggs gave Clayton State a 62-48 lead at the 6:41 mark.
UNC Pembroke would get no closer than 11 points after that spurt. Clayton State took its largest lead of the game 82-58 with 23 seconds remaining on a lay-up in the paint by Timethia Bennett.
"We were able to get some stops together late, and that gradually gave us some separation," Cox said. "We were tenacious defensively and eventually wore them down.
Woodard had a tremendous game for the Lakers with a double-double, scoring 12 points and setting a single-game Clayton State record for assists with 12. Tillman paced Clayton State with 17 points, followed by Griggs with 16 points and Breanna Fort scored 12 points.
For the game, Clayton State shot 51 percent from the field, including 41 percent from 3-point range, and 79 percent from the free throw line.
For UNC Pembroke, Washington and DayDay Ray each scored 13 points, while Briana Stanton and Talena Faison each scored 10 points.
Clayton State is off until Dec. 18, when the Lakers play host to Augusta State at 5:30 p.m. at the Athletics and Fitness Center.
Lakers open PBC with win
When the Clayton State Laker men's basketball team needed that extra lift on Saturday, it relied on the play of Timmy Downs. And the senior point guard delivered when it mattered the most.
Downs equaled his career-high of 27 points on Saturday as Clayton State won a 60-57 thriller over much-improved UNC Pembroke at the English Jones Center. The victory, the fifth in the last six games for the Lakers, improves Clayton State to 6-2 overall and 1-0 in the Peach Belt Conference. UNC Pembroke falls to 6-2 overall and 1-1 in the Peach Belt.
"A great win against a very good UNC Pembroke team," said Clayton State head coach Gordon Gibbons. "It was a tremendous defensive effort on our part, and anytime you get a conference road win, it's huge. We put the ball in Timmy's hands down the stretch, and he simply took over from there."
Downs connected on 5-for-11 from 3-point range for the game, and scored 24 points in the second half to rally the Lakers. Clayton State had trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and struggled offensively, shooting only 24 percent from the field.
However, Clayton State tied the game 37-37 on a 3-point basket by Brandon Robinson at the 10:05 mark, and then took the lead 40-39 on a free throw by Andrew Bachanov with 8:23 remaining. After UNC Pembroke took a 42-41 lead on a Chris Hargrove free throw at the 7:31 mark, Downs took over.
He drained a 3-point basket to give the Lakers the lead, 44-42 with 7:14 remaining. After the Braves tied the game on their ensuing possession, Downs answered again with another 3-point basket. That gave Clayton State the lead for good, 47-44 with 6:31 remaining.
However, Downs was far from finished. His back-to-back 3-point baskets gave the Lakers their largest lead of the game, 55-46 at the 3:25 mark.
"When we stretched out that lead, they (UNC Pembroke) became a little impatient," Gibbons said. "We were so much better offensively in the second half."
But there was plenty of fight left in UNC Pembroke. Trailing 58-50, the Braves countered with a 7-0 run. K.J. Cooper drained a 3-point basket, and then his driving lay-up in transition brought UNC Pembroke to within one, 58-57 with 15 seconds remaining.
Downs was immediately fouled on the inbounds pass, and he calmly sank both free throws with 13 seconds remaining. UNC Pembroke had one last chance to tie and send the game into overtime, but a 3-point attempt by Cody Hughes was short as time expired.
In addition to Downs, Robinson scored 18 points for the Lakers, who limited UNC Pembroke to only 32 percent shooting from the field and only 25 percent from 3-point range. Juron Dobbs added seven points and eight rebounds for Clayton State.
Cooper paced UNC Pembroke with 14 points, followed by Hargrove with 12 points and Shahmel Brackett scored 11 points. The Braves out-rebounded Clayton State 46-37.
Clayton State is off until Dec. 13, when the Lakers play host to Edward Waters at 7:30 p.m. at the Athletics and Fitness Center.