By Doug Gorman
The Clayton State men's basketball team tuned up for Saturday's Peach Belt Conference showdown at Georgia College with an 86-68 victory against Tennessee Temple Monday afternoon inside the Athletics and Fitness Center.
After building a 40-28 lead at the half, Clayton State outscored the Crusaders 46-40 over the final 20 minutes to seize control of the game.
The victory moved Clayton State to 10-3 and gave it wins in five of its last six games.
Tennessee Temple dropped to 4-11.
Senior Timmy Downs was the catalyst for the Lakers and just missed a double-double. The senior point guard finished the game with a career-high 28 points. He also had nine assists.
"Tim is a pure point guard," CSU head coach Gordon Gibbons said. "He is a pass-first guy. Last year I had to get on him to shoot the ball more. He understands what we want, and when to shoot and when to pass. He has a high basketball I.Q."
Andrew Beachanov was the inside force for the Lakers, finishing with 15 points. Brandon Robinson, who entered the game as the Peach Belt's leading scorer, also added 15 points. North Clayton graduate Torrin Greene finished with 11 points.
Lewis Leonard led the Crusaders with 18. Ed Pellot-Rosa added 13 and Kenny Spotwood tossed in 11.
Clayton State fell behind early after the Crusaders took an 18-12 lead midway through the first half. The Lakers chopped away at the lead when Willie Walker, who was not eligible during the first semester, hit a basket as he continues to learn the system at CSU. That sparked the Lakers' comeback. Back-to-back 3-point shots by Green and Downs gave the Lakers a 20-18 lead and they never trailed again.
Tennessee Temple cut the lead to two ponts twice late in the first half, including on a pair of free throws from Jonesboro graduate Jordan Brown. The free throws were Brown's only points of the game and trimmed the lead to 24-22. Brown, a sophomore forward, played nine minutes.
Clayton State shot 53.8 percent from the field. It was also 8 of 14 from beyond 3-point territory. Downs connecterd on 4 of 6 3-point attempts and Green 3 of 4.
The Lakers' defense limited the Crusaders' scoring chances, holding them to 38.6 percent (22 of 57).
Clayton State can now start to think about its Peach Belt Conference schedule as it heads down the stretch. The Lakers are 1-1 in league play after beating USC-Aiken and falling to Augusta.
The Lakers play five of their next seven games at home.
Gibbons said Monday's hard-fought contest could help his team down the stretch.
"As a coach, you do the scheduling for the non-conference games, so what you want to do is to play really good competition, and you want most of them to be at home. I feel good about our non-conference schedule."
The Lakers' next home game is on Wednesday, January 12 against Columbus State.