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Clayton State men brace for conference crush

Photo by Derrick Mahone Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons is telling his team that it needs to run more offense, rather than making one pass and taking the first available shot that follows. 

Photo by Derrick Mahone Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons is telling his team that it needs to run more offense, rather than making one pass and taking the first available shot that follows. 

Now comes the tough part for the Clayton State men’s basketball team: three Peach Belt Conference games in a five-day span, beginning tonight at the Athletics and Fitness Center against North Georgia.

“Pretty grueling,” Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons said.

The Lakers (8-2 overall, 1-1 in the Peach Belt) have lessons to learn and not much time to study. Win or lose tonight, there’s at least six hours of road taking them to North Carolina and South Carolina, where UNC Pembroke and Francis Marion, respectively, await.

When last the Lakers took the court, Thursday against visiting Limestone College, they fell into temptation. They took the open shots the Saints left them and jacked their way into 38.2-percent shooting that made a 69-64 victory harder than it had to be.

What Gibbons hopes to see in the next three games is a little self-control, that just because an opponent leaves his players a shot does not obligate them to take it.

“We’ve got to run more offense, execute and be better,” Gibbons said. “We can’t shoot 38 percent against a team that’s not a good defensive team. In the big games we’ve won — against Wingate, at West Georgia and against Georgia Southwestern, we shot close to 50 percent and ran good offense. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Gibbons is counting on his players policing their own shots.

“There comes a time when you’ve got to let the thoroughbreds run,” he said. “When Teondre Williams is open or when Anthony Salter’s open, they’ve got the green light to shoot. But if you go down and miss twice in a row, that third time you need to run offense. I’m never going to tell a college basketball player on scholarship not to take a shot.”

Clearly, though, he’d rather that player — whoever he may be — tell himself when it’s wise to shoot and when it’s not.

“We’re not a team that makes one pass and then we put it in the basket,” Gibbons said. “That’s not who we are.”

Williams, coming off a career-high 28-point performance against Limestone, is confident the Lakers will play smarter for this bundle of games while they figure out what’s best when they have the ball.

“Rebounding and defensive effort is what we have to hang our hat on,” the 6-foot-5 senior said. “I know the offense is going to come around.”

Gibbons is concerned about the way the Lakers hit the boards, although they outrebounded Limestone 42-39.

“We’ve been outrebounded by every team we’ve played except (two),” the coach said. “We lost our first conference game (at Columbus State on Dec. 19) because we got blasted on the boards.”

The Lakers will prepare for all three opponents at the same time, but not because they’re looking past North Georgia. “North Georgia plays great against Clayton State — always have,” Gibbons said.

Rather, it’s because the tight scheduling — UNC Pembroke on Thursday, Francis Marion on Saturday — will leave Gibbons and his staff no time to prepare for the road games if they wait until after finishing with North Georgia.

“These are huge conference games for us,” Gibbons said.