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Clayton State men hang on for 73-71 nail-biter over visiting Lander

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

Special to the Daily

Needing a victory in the worst way possible, the Clayton State men's basketball fought tooth-and-nail on Thursday night for a big 73-71 Peach Belt Conference victory over visiting Lander at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

The victory ends a two-game losing skid for Clayton State, which improves to 16-7 overall and 7-5 in the Peach Belt. Lander falls to 9-13 overall and 2-12 in the Peach Belt.

It was a tight game which featured 13 ties and 15 lead-changes. In the first half alone, there were seven ties and five lead-changes. The Lakers twice wiped out Bearcat leads on consecutive 3-point baskets Brandon Robinson, and then took a 23-20 lead on a follow-up dunk James Waldon at the 7:03 mark.

Robinson then drained another 3-point basket, and a 3-point play freshman Zach Bradley gave the Lakers a 29-24 lead with 4:53 remaining. After Lander cut the lead to one point, Timmy Downs answered with a 3-point basket and then two free throws with 35 seconds remaining to give Clayton State a 36-31 lead at halftime.

Early in the second half, it appeared as if the Lakers would pull away. A 3-point basket Greene and two free throws Robinson gave Clayton State a 45-37 with 16:35 remaining. But Lander answered with 10-2 as Stefan Tabasevic and David Pruett both drained 3-point baskets to trim the Laker lead to two points. Two free throws Quentin Bastian tied the game at 47-47 with 13:06 remaining.

From there, neither team would give an inch. On two occasions, Greene broke a tie with a 3-point, and then gave the Lakers a 62-60 lead on a 3-point basket at the 5:38 mark. Greene came up big again with his sixth 3-point basket of the game to break a 66-66 tie with 2:12.

After Lander tied the game on a Pruett 3-point basket, Greene gave the Lakers the lead for good with a turnaround jumper on the baseline with 1:12 remaining. The Lakers forced a Lander turnover with 35 seconds remaining, and Robinson made a free throw to extend the Clayton State lead to 72-69.

Lander cut the lead to one point on a put-back Bastian with eight seconds remaining. Fouled on the inbounds, Bradley made his first free throw for the Lakers, but missed the second. The Bearcats had a final shot for the win, Calvin Liptrot's 3-point attempt from the left corner was long at the buzzer.

Robinson scored 23 points to pace Clayton State, followed closely Greene with 22 points. Downs recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists.

Pruett scored a game-high 24 points for Lander on five 3-point baskets, while forward Jermel Kennedy recorded a double-double with 13 points and 19 rebounds, and Liptrot added 11 points off the bench. The Bearcats controlled the glass, out-rebounding Clayton State 56-34.

Up next for Clayton State is a 3:30 p.m. showdown at home against Francis Marion on Saturday.