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West Georgia hands Clayton State first loss

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Clayton State guard Teondre Williams (0) listens to some instructions from the coaches just before the start of the second half as the Lakers lose 78-68 to West Georgia on Tuesday at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Clayton State guard Teondre Williams (0) listens to some instructions from the coaches just before the start of the second half as the Lakers lose 78-68 to West Georgia on Tuesday at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

Clayton State’s men’s basketball team couldn’t finish what it started Tuesday.

For 35 of the 40 minutes against visiting West Georgia, the Lakers looked as if the third straight victory they were crafting was in reach. But five bad minutes undid a world of good.

Instead, undefeated West Georgia left the Athletics and Fitness Center with a 78-68 victory, its fifth in a row, and the Lakers were left to piece together what went wrong.

They led 61-60 with 5:04 to go, after Anthony Salter sank two free throws. But from that point on, the Lakers got outrebounded, outshot and outexecuted.

“We made too many mistakes,” Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons said after his team fell to 2-1 with the non-conference defeat. “Not getting guys covered up in transition, not finishing off rebounds ... You can’t get to the rim as much as we did and not score the basketball.”

Teondre Williams led the Lakers with 26 points, but had only two in the final five minutes as the Wolves seized the opportunity and outscored the Lakers 18-7.

“You have to score when you have the opportunity with the game on the line,” Gibbons said. “When you score, you can do some of the things we do so well, like press.”

The Lakers seemed to lose control of things late in the first half, after opening up their biggest lead at 34-24 on a Williams jump shot with 3:03 to play. The Wolves closed to within 36-32 at halftime and seized control on the boards in the second half, outrebounding Clayton State 22-12 and 42-29 for the game.

Offensive options that lay dormant in the first half awakened for West Georgia in the second half. Gavin Field didn’t score a point in the first 20 minutes, but finished with 11, including three 3-pointers, helping the Wolves shoot 48.5 percent from the field in the second half.

Field’s 3-pointer with 2:13 to go was particularly damaging. On the previous two possessions, the Lakers missed opportunities to tie — first with Bradley Tumer missing a layup and then with Field blocking his shot the next time the Lakers got the ball.

Field followed that with the 3-pointer that turned a two-point game into a 68-63 advantage and it just kept getting worse for Clayton State from there.

Salter finished with 12 points for the Lakers, their only other player in double figures.

Da’Ron Sims led all scorers with 27 points, including a pair of dunks that short-circuited Clayton State’s desperate presses at the end.

This is what happens sometimes with a team that has 11 new faces on the roster, and no name tags that say, “Hello, I’m ... ” It remains a work in progress, and the loss did nothing to deter Gibbons from believing that it could be a very good work before the season is over.

“We have to be more intelligent on the offensive end,” Gibbons said. “We have the talent but we’re still coming together. We’re getting along great and there’s no chemistry problems. Guys are figuring out how to best fit in the offense.”