From Staff Reports
Aiming to rebound from Thursday's disappointing defeat at Lander, the Clayton State Laker men's basketball team had one of its better shooting performances of the season on Saturday and rolled to an 81-70 Peach Belt Conference victory at Francis Marion.
The victory was the fourth in the last six games for Clayton State, now 13-10 overall and 6-7 in the Peach Belt. Francis Marion has now dropped four of its last five to fall to 17-6 overall and 9-5 in the Peach Belt.
"This was a big team win for us because we had to get it on the road," said Clayton State head coach Gordon Gibbons. "The game was about our defense, especially in the first half. We always seem to play well here, and this is big heading into the final couple of weeks of the regular season."
Clayton State shot 54 percent from the field, including 9-for-14 (64 percent) from 3-point range and 78 percent from the free throw line. Junior point guard Timmy Downs had his best game yet in a Laker uniform, scoring a career-high 27 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line.
However, it was the Laker defense that set the early tone. Clayton State held Francis Marion to only four field goals in its first 24 attempts. The Lakers, meanwhile stretched a 14-7 lead to a 19 points with a 15-2 run. Luvonte Rhines drained a 3-point basket, followed by two straight 3-point baskets by Brandon Robinson.
Robert Murry followed with two straight jump shots in the lane to give the Lakers a 29-10 lead with 6:15 remaining. The closest Francis Marion would get was 15 points, including 42-27 at halftime.
Clayton State led by as many as 17 points early in the second half when the Patriots answered with a 15-2 run. A 3-point play by Kaylan Anderson trimmed the Laker lead to 57-53 with 11 minutes remaining.
However, the Lakers responded as Downs twice stole the ball at midcourt and converted transition lay-ups to push the Clayton State lead back to 65-55. A jump shot by Torrin Greene at the 5:04 mark increased the Clayton State lead to 71-59.
Francis Marion again cut the lead to four points, 72-68 on a Kendrick Robinson 3-point basket with 2:56 remaining. But the shot of the game for Clayton State came when Murry banked home a 25-foot 3-point bomb with 1:57 remaining as the shot clock was winding down. That gave the Lakers a 76-68, and Patriots would get no closer.
In addition to Downs, Robinson scored 15 points, followed by Murry with 13 points. Rhines added nine points off the bench and center Armon Jones grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
For Francis Marion, Anderson scored 13 points, while Simel Boyd scored 11 points and Robert Faulkner added 10 points off the bench. The Patriots shot only 36 percent from the field, including only 26 percent from 3-point range.
Clayton State returns home on Wednesday for a key Peach Belt Conference showdown at 7:30 p.m. against in-state rival Columbus State.