Cougars top Lakers for first PBC win of season

CSU Men 70, Clayton State 58

COLUMBUS – Columbus State used a strong defensive effort to earn a 70-58 victory over Clayton State on Tuesday night at the Lumpkin Center, as they earned their first Peach Belt Conference win of the season.

The Cougars forced 16 Laker turnovers in the game including 13 in the first half mostly due to an impressive backcourt press.

"We played very aggressive on the defensive side of the ball that seemed to give them some problems," commented head coach Robert Moore. "We started slow but we picked up the momentum late in the first half which helped us build our lead."

"I was happy to seem Jahmad (Saleem) give us some major minutes at point tonight."

After Clayton State (4-3, 0-2 PBC) jumped out to an early 10-2 lead, CSU scored 13 of the next 15 points to go ahead 15-12 with 11:31 left in the half. Five different Cougar players scored during the 13-2 run including DeAngelo Kirkland who had six.

The Lakers rallied with a Corbyn Moye three-pointer and an Omari Murray lay-up gave the guests a 17-15 lead. However, the lead was Clayton State's last as the Cougars exploded for an 11-2 run to take a 26-19 lead with 5:08 remaining. Kirkland was again one of the catalysts nailing a three-pointer to give CSU the lead for good while Shane Heyward added three points.

After Sirdarius Henry broke the run with a trifecta cutting the deficit to 26-22, the Cougars capped off the half outscoring the Lakers 11-3 over the final four minutes to take a 37-25 lead into the break.

It was a highlight show run as Jermaine Morgan, Kenney Funderburk and BJ Battle all had rim rattling dunks for the Cougars.

On Columbus State's (7-2, 1-1) first possession of the second half, Nick Turner hit a three pushing the lead to 15, 40-25. The 15-points would be CSU's largest lead of the game as the Cougars achieved it five times throughout the half.

With the Cougars leading 42-27 with 17:44 to go, Clayton State played some of its best basketball of the game going on an 8-0 spurt to get within seven, 42-35. Murray and Charles Shedrick had four points apiece while Murray picked up an assist.

Columbus State quickly retook a 15-point lead, 52-37, with 12:38 remaining thanks to a pair of Battle three-pointers.

The Lakers made one final run to climb back into the game going on another 8-0 run to get back within seven (53-46) with 9:30 to go. Murray was the key player again this time scoring six of the eight Laker points.

After Murray scored the final points of the spurt, R.J. Sessions put the comeback to bed with a long three-pointer stretching the lead back to double-figures. The three-pointer began a 12-4 run pushing the lead back to 15, 65-50, with 5:16 to go. The Cougars would lead by double figures for the remainder of the contest.

BJ Battle led Columbus State with 15 points going 6-for-10 from the field including a 3-for-6 mark from downtown. Shane Heyward and Kenney Funderburk each scored 11.

Jahmad Saleem scored four points, grabbed three rebounds and had 11 assists. The 11 assists are tied for the second most by a PBC player this year.

Omari Murray recorded a double-double scoring a game high 18 points and corralling 13 rebounds. Charles Shedrick also had 12 for the Lakers.

As a team, CSU shot 49.1 percent (26-for-53) while making six of its 16 three-pointers. At the line, the Cougars shot a lowly 57.1 percent (12-for-21).

Clayton State shot 35.7 percent (20-for-56) from the field but were just 3-for-12 from beyond the arc. However, the Lakers did go 15-of-16 from the line.

Columbus State will now take a break for the holiday season before returning to the court on Thursday, January 2 to face off against Lander. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Greenwood, S.C.