From Staff Reports
All season long, the Clayton State Laker men's basketball team have relied on the tandem of Timmy Downs and Brandon Robinson to make big plays in key situations. However, over the last couple of games, Juron Dobbs has begun to step it up.
Dobbs made some key contributions late on Saturday as Clayton State won a thrilling 67-62 overtime victory over USC Aiken in Peach Belt Conference action at the Convocation Center. The victory, the eighth in the last nine games and 11th in the last 13 for the Lakers, improves Clayton State to 12-3 overall and 3-1 in the Peach Belt.
Meanwhile USC Aiken, which was a preseason Top 25 team in Division II, has now dropped four straight to fall to 9-6 overall and 3-5 in the Peach Belt.
"It was another grind-it-out conference victory," said Clayton State head coach Gordon Gibbons. "I knew we would have some big road games early in the conference schedule, and we sure are taking advantage of it at the moment. We are on a good roll right now, but we also have an important stretch coming up."
Dobbs made some key plays on both ends late in regulation and in the overtime session for the Lakers. After USC Aiken rallied and tied the game 58-58 on a 3-point basket by Byron Faison, the Pacers had the final possession with a chance to win. But Dobbs blocked a potential game-winning 3-point attempt by USC Aiken's Re'mon Nelson with three seconds remaining to force overtime.
In the overtime session, the Pacers tied the game 62-62 on a 3-point play by forward Kevin Willis with 2:26 remaining. But Dobbs put Clayton State ahead for good with a free throw, and then converted a lay-up off an offensive rebound to give the Lakers a 65-62 lead with 24 seconds remaining.
Following a Pacer turnover, the Downs drained two free throws with nine seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Lakers.
"Juron has been a big part of our success lately - just as solid as a rock out there," Gibbons said. "Playing with the lead is the best way to play, and our defensive effort in the second half and in the overtime was key. I challenged the team this week to make plays defensively, and they did just that."
Clayton State won despite shooting only 36 percent from the field and only 18 percent from 3-point range. In addition, the Lakers also committed 11 turnovers in the first half as USC Aiken used an 15-2 run off four Clayton State miscues to lead 23-15 at the 6:55 mark of the first half.
The Lakers eventually cut the Pacer lead to five points, 30-25 at halftime.
After trailing by seven points early in the second half, Clayton State rallied to tie the game 44-44 on a Robinson free throw at the 9:44 mark. After that, the Lakers went on a 10-2 run as Dobbs scored twice inside and Downs scored twice in transition to give Clayton State a 54-46 lead with 6:21 remaining.
After the Lakers led 56-48, USC Aiken rallied. A 3-point play by center Alvin Brown cut the Clayton State lead to three points, followed by Faison's big 3-point basket to tie the game with 1:54 remaining.
Downs equalled his career-high with 28 points on 9-for-9 shooting from the free throw line. Robinson scored 16 points, and Dobbs added nine points. Defensively, the Lakers held USC Aiken to only 32 percent shooting from the field, including only 17 percent from 3-point range.
Faison paced the Pacers with 18 points, followed by Brown with 13 points and Willis scored 11 points.
Clayton State hits the road again on Wednesday with a key 8:30 p.m. EST Peach Belt Conference game at Montevallo.