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Close games and Clayton State going hand in hand

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Clayton State players (L-R) Reco Lewis, Tyrone Black and Tony Dukes listen to coach Gordon Gibbons during a timeout during the team’s last game before the Christmas break at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Clayton State players (L-R) Reco Lewis, Tyrone Black and Tony Dukes listen to coach Gordon Gibbons during a timeout during the team’s last game before the Christmas break at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

Too many more games like the last two involving the Clayton State men's basketball team and they’re going to have to install a cardiac-care unit at courtside in the Athletics and Fitness Center.

Fresh off two games decided by three points and two overtimes, the Lakers resume their season tonight at home in the Heritage Bank Holiday Classic against Limestone College.

The Lakers lost their most recent outing, a 72-70 decision at Columbus State that broke a five-game winning streak. That followed an 85-84, double-overtime victory at home against preseason Peach Belt Conference favorite Georgia Southwestern.

In games that close, the smallest things make the biggest difference — and that’s where Clayton State (7-2) has struggled recently. The Lakers’ free-throw shooting, one of the most basic elements of the game, has let them down.

They have made only 32 of their last 55 attempts from the line, a 58.2-percent clip. They had a chance to send the Columbus State game to overtime, but Andrew Bachanov missed two free throws. It shouldn't have come to that, but the Lakers had only made 17 of 29 to that point.

“Teondre Williams went into that game shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line and he missed five in a row and went 5 for 11,” Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons said Wednesday. “Anthony Salter missed three big free throws. I really don’t think that’s a chronic problem but I would like to see our free-throw percentage as a team creep up.”

Limestone (6-5) also has played several close games, an overtime victory and four decided by four points or fewer, including its most recent outing, an 86-83 loss at Mars Hill College that ended the Saints’ three-game winning streak.

The Saints’ strength is rebounding — they average three more a game than their opponents (38-35), while the Lakers on average get outrebounded 40-36. They are led by Jarrell Douglass' 8.7 a game, which combines nicely with his 21.9-point average. Charles Blue has had double-doubles in the Saints' last two games — 28 points and 18 rebounds against Mars Hill and 26 and 17 in a 74-69 victory over Catawba. Both will merit the Lakers’ full attention.