Photo by Derrick Mahone
Clayton State forward Tyrone Black (left) wipes his face as Bradley Tumer looks on during a first-half timeout in the Lakers’ game against visiting Limestone on Thursday at the Athletics and Fitness Center.
Clayton State did so many things right Thursday night in its men’s basketball contest against Limestone College, it was hard to believe that it was still a one-possession game with eight seconds to play at the Athletics and Fitness Center.
Teondre Williams had a career-high 28 points, Juron Dobbs a career-high 12 rebounds on a rare night that the Lakers won the battle of the boards. Clayton State had 11 fewer turnovers than Limestone.
And, yet, what would become a 69-64 Lakers victory was still in just enough doubt to make it interesting in the waning minutes. And that, Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons said, was because the Lakers “took the bait” against Limestone.
“They play a sagging, sagging man defense, enticing you to take the quick shot, and the guys took the bait,” Gibbons said, studying a stat sheet that revealed 38.2-percent Clayton State shooting from the field (26 of 68).
“We shot 17 threes in the first half,” the coach said. “We don’t need to shoot 17 threes.”
They ended with 24 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc, with Williams making two and Anthony Salter spicing his 18-point night with three. Torrin Greene made the other.
But the Lakers (8-2) earned plenty of twos the hard way — crashing the offensive boards. Two of Dobbs’ rebounds came on offense, one a slam of a missed shot by Salter. Williams had four offensive rebounds, also slamming home a Salter miss. The Lakers had 12 offensive rebounds to Limestone’s four.
“That was a big emphasis because we lost our last game because of it,” Williams said. “We’ve been outrebounded by a lot of teams and we made a conscious effort tonight.”
The Lakers also did a good job containing Limestone’s Charles Blue, who started the game having averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds in his last four, taking up the slack for injured Division II All-America forward Jarrell Douglass (knee injury).
Blue, who missed about six minutes in the second half because of leg cramps, settled for 10 points and nine rebounds as Clayton State’s Andrew Bachanov and Tyrone Black patrolled the paint and blocked two shots apiece.
Josh Corry, who led Limestone (6-6) with 12 points, didn’t score in the second half. In earning their second five-point victory over the Saints this season — Clayton State also beat Limestone 62-57 in Gaffney, S.C., on Nov. 16 — the Lakers outhustled their opponents, with Dobbs diving for a loose ball and Tony Dukes nearly flying into press row after deflecting a pass. Limestone committed 17 turnovers to Clayton State’s six.
“I thought we were quicker to the ball than they were,” Gibbons said.
But all of that nearly went up in smoke because the Lakers still haven’t figured out how to finish off a beaten opponent efficiently. Up eight in the final two minutes, Bradley Tumer missed a slam that would’ve meant a double-digit lead. The Saints made four straight free throws to cut the margin to four instead, and then it was a question of could the Lakers do the same?
They couldn’t. After Salter made two with 35.3 seconds left to restore Clayton State to a six-point advantage, Dukes and Williams each missed a pair. Limestone’s Ryan Bogdan answered with a high-arcing 3-pointer and it was 67-64 with eight seconds to go.
But Williams redeemed himself with two free throws and only 6.9 seconds left.
“I didn’t think we finished the game real well,” Gibbons said. “But [Limestone is] going to finish above .500, so that’s going to become a quality win for us.”