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Free-throw slump hurting Clayton State men

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Clayton State’s Juron Dobbs, who had a career-high 12 rebounds against Limestone College last week, may have to hit the boards hard again tonight if the Lakers’ recent struggles at the free-throw line continue at UNC Pembroke.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Clayton State’s Juron Dobbs, who had a career-high 12 rebounds against Limestone College last week, may have to hit the boards hard again tonight if the Lakers’ recent struggles at the free-throw line continue at UNC Pembroke.

At first, Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons dismissed problematic free-throw shooting as the exception, not the rule. However, as the Lakers prepare tonight for the second leg of a three-games-in-five-days journey through pivotal Peach Belt Conference games, that which they brushed off as an aberration is looking uncomfortably commonplace.

The Lakers (8-3 overall, 1-2 PBC) visit UNC Pembroke (9-4, 3-0) tonight, trying to rebound from Tuesday’s 69-68 loss at home against rival North Georgia — a game in which anything better than their 18 of 33 from the free-throw line might have made a big difference.

They missed nine key free throws in the second half, the most painful of which was Anthony Salter’s attempt to send a game in which they led by double digits, to overtime. He missed with no time left.

A week ago, Gibbons said the free-throw situation wasn’t a huge concern.

“I really don’t think that’s a chronic problem,” he said.

The next night, the Lakers nearly allowed a 69-64 victory over Limestone College to slip away by shooting only 11 of 19 from the line, including just 4 of 8 in the final minutes.

And now the stat sheet weighs in: They go into tonight’s game last among the PBC’s 13 teams in free-throw shooting at 63.1 percent — a clip they haven’t reached in their last four games.

A two-point loss to Columbus State and a one-point loss to North Georgia are all that stand between the Lakers being 3-0 in the PBC, striding into UNC Pembroke for a showdown of unbeatens, and a team that limps in at 1-2.

If they’re going to fix the problem, they’d better be quick about it. They have another test coming up Saturday afternoon at Francis Marion, which is the conference’s best free-throw shooting team at 76 percent.