AIKEN, S.C. — To say the Clayton State Laker women’s basketball team turned up the defensive intensity on Friday against Tusculum was a huge understatement. It was more along the lines of a defensive clinic as Clayton State rolled past Tusculum 51-26 in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional at the Convocation.
Clayton State, ranked sixth in the nation in Division II, improves to 29-3 overall and advances to the second round of the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The Lakers will battle South Atlantic Conference champion Wingate on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Convocation Center.
The 26 points allowed by the Lakers was the fewest in game against a Clayton State team in program history. The previous mark was 27 against Spelman in 2003. The Lakers also held the Lady Pioneers (17-11) to only eight points in the second half
“That might be the best half of basketball we’ve played all season – we really hunkered down defensively in the half court,” said Clayton State head coach Dennis Cox. “That was the difference in the game on a day when we did not play particularly well offensively. We really did the job defensively, especially in the half court.”
Like last Sunday in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship game against USC Aiken, Clayton State again had a sluggish first half offensively. The Lakers shot only 20 percent from the field with six field goals. However, Clayton State remained in striking range against Tusculum, trailing only 18-16 at halftime.
But the Lakers came out with renewed energy in the second half. Clayton State opened the half on a 10-3 run to lead by five points as Brittany Hall drained a 3-point basket and Kayla Mobley’s jumper in the lane gave Clayton State a 26-21 lead at the 17:02 mark.
Tusculum never got closer than three points from that moment on, shooting only 3-for-16 (19 percent) from the field in the second half. The Lady Pioneers cut the Laker lead to 10 points on a free throw by Staci Hills at the 6:31 mark, but Clayton State held Tusculum scoreless for the remainder of the game.
The Lakers finished the game on a 15-0 run. Keona Dixon started the rally with a 3-point basket, followed by two straight baskets in the lane by Mobley. Tanisha Woodard pushed the Clayton State lead to 20 points on a 3-point play at the 4:53 mark.
Mobley and Hall paced a balanced Clayton State attack with 12 points apiece, while Mobley also grabbed nine rebounds. Woodard and Dixon each scored 10 points, with Woodard adding seven rebounds and seven assists.
For Tusculum, Hicks scored nine points, and Linda Aughburns grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds.