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Pressure defense aids Clayton State in big win

Photo by Derrick Mahone Clayton State forward Kayla Mobley (32) awaits a teammate to shoot a free throw in the first half of the fifth-ranked Lakers' 76-48 rout of West Georgia on Thursday in the Heritage Bank Holiday Classic. 

Photo by Derrick Mahone Clayton State forward Kayla Mobley (32) awaits a teammate to shoot a free throw in the first half of the fifth-ranked Lakers' 76-48 rout of West Georgia on Thursday in the Heritage Bank Holiday Classic. 

At times during Thursday’s non-conference win over visiting West Georgia, Clayton State looked as if it deserved its No. 5 ranking.

Then there was those moments that the Lakers looked like a team that had a nine-day layoff.

In the end, the Lakers’ pressure defense was enough to offset some spotty shooting for a 76-48 win in the Heritage Bank Holiday Classic at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

“I thought our layoff really showed in our shooting,” Clayton State coach Dennis Cox said. “We just didn’t have the legs to make the shots we were capable of making. If shows that if you play good defense you can win on a night when you are not making the shots. Our defense give us some easy layups.”

The Lakers, who improved to 11-1, never trailed throughout the contest. It wasn’t until Moné Peoples hit a layup off a steal that West Georgia got into double-figure scoring with a 16:12 remaining in the first half, as it trailed 24-11.

West Georgia was unable to handle the Lakers’ full-court pressure defense as they committed 33 turnovers, 20 in the first half. The Wolves (5-5) also had four shot-clock violations as a result of the Lakers’ pressure.

“If you haven’t seen our defense before, it can catch you off guard,” said Tanisha Woodard, who had a game-high 18 points and five steals. “Once we sense that you are a little shaky, we will turn it up.”

The Lakers finished with 18 steals, with 12 of the 13 players getting at least one.

Breonna Mosley, who played at Luella High, led the Wolves with 12 points.

“Defensively we had the energy,” Cox said. “I had to rest some players at times because I saw where they were getting winded, but defensively we had some spring in our defense.”

Clayton State wraps up the tournament today when it takes on Wingate at 5:30 p.m. West Georgia will play Lander in the 3:30 p.m. game.

Wingate defeated Lander 70-67 on Thursday as three sophomores combined for 49 points. Last season, Wingate reached the NCAA Div. II Southeast Regional, where it lost to Lander.

Cox said the Wingate game should provide a good test for his team as the final tune-up before the defending national champions jump back into its Peach Belt Conference schedule at home on Tuesday against North Georgia.

“Wingate has just about everybody back from last season,” Cox said. “It should be a good game.”

This was the 15th straight win for the Lakers in their annual holiday tournament. Because of NCAA rules, the team was only able to hold two practices prior to Thursday’s game.

Cox said the team would rather play in the tournament than just practicing following a nine-day layoff.

“This tournament has become a tradition for us,” Cox said. “Each year the team looks forward to the competition. If you ask the players, they will tell you they enjoy this more than just holding practices over the holiday break. We are getting ready for our conference schedule.”