From Staff Reports
Whenever Clayton State and Armstrong Atlantic square off in men's basketball at Armstrong Atlantic's Alumni Arena, expect the game to be close and down to the wire.
Wednesday night was no different.
However, Clayton State hit some big shots down the stretch and held on defensively for a thrilling 61-57 victory over Armstrong Atlantic. The Lakers have now two straight games and six of their last eight to improve to 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the Peach Belt Conference. Armstrong Atlantic had a three-game winning streak snapped to fall to 11-6 overall and 5-4 in the Peach Belt.
"It was a great win," said Clayton State head coach Gordon Gibbons. "To be on the road and trailing much of the second half, we really stayed together, stayed with it and our defense held on down the stretch."
Coming in as the top-rated shooting team in the Peach Belt, Armstrong Atlantic proved it in the first half. Behind 14 first-half points from junior Chris Vanlandingham, the Pirates used a 13-0 run late to lead 31-23 at halftime.
Armstrong Atlantic maintained the lead for much of the second half, increasing it to nine points 48-39 on two free throws by Vanlandingham at the 9:25 mark.
That's when the Lakers made their move. Clayton State answered with a 13-2 run as junior Torrin Greene drained two key 3-point baskets to trim the Pirate lead to one point. A long 3-point basket by Timmy Downs gave the Lakers a 52-50 lead with 4:12 remaining.
Armstrong Atlantic regained the lead on a 3-point basket by Jesse Wheeler and stretched the lead to 55-52 on two technical free throws by Vanlandingham at the 3:24 mark. But Clayton State answered as Greene nailed a turnaround jump shot in the lane, and another big 3-point basket by Downs gave the Lakers a 57-55 lead with 2:25 remaining.
Vanlandingham responded with a driving lay-up for the Pirates, but Clayton State again answered as guard Brandon Robinson scored on a lay-up in the paint to give the Lakers a 59-57 lead with 43 seconds remaining.
Armstrong had a chance to tie or possibly take the lead, but a turnaround jumper on the baseline by Brett Goodwell could not fall, giving Clayton State possession with 25 seconds remaining. After being fouled four times on in-bound plays, Downs drained two free throws with 18 seconds remaining to seal it for the Lakers.
Downs paced Clayton State with 14 points, while Robinson and Greene each scored 13 points. Defensively, the Lakers stifled the Armstrong attack, limiting the Pirates to only 33 percent shooting from the field and only 31 percent from 3-point range.
Vanlandingham paced the Pirates with a game-high 23 points on 11-for-12 from the free throw line.
Clayton State travels to St. Augustine, Fla., this weekend for a 3:30 p.m. match-up on Saturday at Flagler.