From Staff Reports
Fresh off being ranked third in the nation in the latest USA Today/ESPN Division II Top 25 Coaches' Poll, the Clayton State Laker women's basketball team got all it could handle at Montevallo on Wednesday.
However, the Lakers turned up the defensive intensity in the second half and pulled away with a 68-56 victory in Peach Belt Conference action at BankTrust Arena. Clayton State remains undefeated on the season at 16-0 overall and 5-0 in the Peach Belt. Montevallo falls to 7-7 overall and 3-2 in the Peach Belt.
"We will get everyone's best shot," said Clayton State head coach Dennis Cox. "We knew it was going to be a battle, and it was one of those nights where you just weren't going to shoot well."
Unlike Saturday's victory over USC Aiken, Clayton State struggled offensively throughout. The Lakers shot only 34 percent from the floor and only 33 percent from 3-point range. In fact, Clayton State went the first five minutes of the contest without scoring before Alexiss Griffin drained a 3-point basket at the 14:48 mark.
Montevallo's largest lead of the first half was four points, 20-16 on a 3-point basket by Taylor Welch with 4:41 remaining. However, Clayton State took the lead on a transition lay-up by Teshymia Tillman at the 2:31 mark. Tillman's lay-up with two seconds remaining game gave the Lakers a 30-26 lead at halftime.
Montevallo twice tied the game early in the second half before Tillman put Clayton State head for good with a lay-up at the 13:30 mark. A Tillman 3-point play and a 3-point basket by Tanisha Woodard stretched the Laker lead to 43-35 with 12:12 remaining.
Three times, the Falcons cut the lead to two points. A driving lay-up by Jessica Collins trimmed the Laker lead to 53-51 at the 6:31 mark. That was as close as Montevallo would get.
Tillman countered with a lay-up, and Breanna Fort twice scored inside to increase the Clayton State lead to eight points.
"Once we got that separation, we became much more patient," Cox said. "It's another case of how we've been winning lately - wearing the opponent down with the press. We played a pretty good game defensively."
Tillman paced Clayton State with 17 points, while Woodard and Fort each scored 15 points. The Lakers forced 33 Montevallo turnovers with 20 steals. Tiffany McClure scored 11 points for Montevallo, followed by Welch with 10 points.
Clayton State returns home on Saturday with a 5:30 p.m. game against in-state rival North Georgia.