From Staff Reports
Fresh off being ranked No. 2 in the nation in Division II, the Clayton State Laker women's basketball team was once again put to the test on Wednesday night at Peach Belt Conference rival Armstrong Atlantic. However, the Lakers pulled away in the second half for an impressive 87-65 victory at Alumni Arena.
With the victory, Clayton State remains undefeated on the season at 19-0 overall and 8-0 in the Peach Belt. Armstrong Atlantic is now 7-10 overall and 3-6 in the Peach Belt with its fifth straight defeat.
"(Armstrong Atlantic head coach) Matt (Schmidt) had his team prepared well and they were ready to play," said Clayton State head coach Dennis Cox, who improved to 11-2 lifetime against the Lady Pirates. "We played very well for a seven-minute stretch tonight, but they (Armstrong Atlantic) played very well and really tested us. We've said all along that we are going to get our opponent's best effort each time out."
Cox was referring to the last two minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half which proved to be the key difference for the Lakers. Armstrong Atlantic had matched Clayton State point-for-point much of the first half, and the Lady Pirates trailed 34-33 on a jump shot in the paint by Morgan Mitchell with 1:52 remaining.
That's when Clayton State finished the first half on a 9-0 run. Tanisha Woodard and Teshymia Tillman converted two straight lay-ups in transition to give the Lakers a 43-33 lead at halftime.
Clayton State opened the second half on a 15-4 run to put the game out of reach. Woodard and Tillman opened the half again with consecutive lay-ups, followed by lay-ups by Shacamra Jackson and Renee Jackson to give the Lakers a 14-point lead. Tillman then drained a 3-point basket, and Kayla Mobley's lay-up at the 15:30 mark gave Clayton State a commanding 58-37 lead.
The largest lead of the game for Clayton State was 25 points on two occasions. Brittany Hall's lay-up in transition gave the Lakers an 81-56 lead at the 3:30 mark, and a 3-point basket by Hall made the Clayton State lead 84-59 with 2:13 remaining.
In the second half alone, Clayton State forced 20 Lady Pirate turnovers and scored 21 points off turnovers.
"The most impressive thing is way we played the passing lanes defensively," Cox said. "We don't win without the press tonight. That was the difference."
Woodard led a balanced scoring attack for Clayton State with 14 points, followed by Tillman with 13 points. Hall and Renee Jackson each scored 10 points for the Lakers, who shot 45 percent from the field.
For Armstrong Atlantic, Jazmin Walker scored 18 points, while Arpine Amirkhanyan scored 14 points and Brooke Long scored 11 points.
Clayton State travels to St. Augustine, Fla., this weekend for a 1:30 p.m. match-up on Saturday at Flagler.