Francis Marion rallies to beat Cougars

Francis Marion 75, CSU 72

COLUMBUS – Francis Marion rallied from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat Columbus State 75-72 on Friday night. The Peach Belt Conference contest took place at the Lumpkin Center.

With the loss, Columbus State has now lost three in a row and falls to 1-4 in the PBC. Overall, the Cougars are 7-5.

Both teams began the game hot from downtown as Francis Marion jumped out to an early 6-3 lead with just over a minute and a half off the clock. From there, Columbus State exploded going on an 11-0 run to get in front 14-6. It was the BJ Battle and R.J. Sessions show early on as the two players combined to score CSU's first 14 points.

After the Patriots (5-6, 2-3 PBC) pulled within three, 14-11, Columbus State went on another sustained run this time a 10-2 spurt to take its first 11-point lead (24-13) of the night. Five different players scored for the Cougars including DeAngelo Kirkland and Kenney Funderburk who each netted three.

Two technical free throws gave CSU a 29-18 lead with 5:44 to go in the first before FMU rallied back into the game. The Patriots scored the game's next 10 points to get within one of the lead, 29-28, thanks to the deep ball once again. Evrik Gary and Robert Carpenter each hit trifectas in the two minute and four second stretch.

However, the Cougars responded by scoring nine straight points to rebuild a 10-point lead (40-30) before the halftime buzzer. Shane Heyward and Sessions scored all nine points for CSU including Heyward who scored his entire six first half points in the final three minutes of the half.

Coming out of the break, Columbus State stretched the lead to a game high 12 points (42-30) on a pair of Sessions free throws at the 18:18 mark.

From there, Francis Marion began its methodical march back going on a 15-4 run including a mini 7-0 spurt to pull within one (46-45) with 12:14 to go. During the 7-0 run, Luka Zivkovic nailed a three-pointer while Gary had an acrobatic three-point play after being fouled on a lay-up attempt to make it a five-point game.

Jermaine Morgan broke the draught with a pair of free throws before a Trevonte Dixon lay-up and another Zivkovic three made it a 44-42 game. After a Kirkland jumper, Zivkovic was at it again connecting on his third three ball of the night to bring the Patriots within one.

Columbus State would try to pull away once again going up by seven after a Derrick Spear three-pointer at the nine minute mark (58-51).

Over the next two and a half minutes, Francis Marion closed the game to a single point with the final time coming at the 6:34 mark on a pair of free throws by Gary.

The Cougars held a five-point lead with under four to play after a Heyward jumper made it a 66-61 before Francis Marion finally went ahead on the heels of a 10-0 run. Dixon had a three-point play to tie the game at 66 at the 2:04 mark before Carpetner hit a three-pointer that gave FMU its first lead since the 18:27 mark in the first half.

With the Patriots up five with 47 seconds to go, the Cougars made one final push to tie the game. Battle nailed a three-pointer with 40 seconds left to bring CSU within two. After a pair of free throws, Battle connected on another trey to make it a 73-72 contest with just 21 seconds to go.

Two more FMU free throws made it a three-point game once again giving CSU the ball with 15 seconds to go. In the final 11 seconds, Columbus State took four shots that would have tied the game but each failed to find the mark.

R.J. Sessions scored a game high 23 points going 5-for-9 from three-point range. BJ Battle chipped in with 15. DeAngelo Kirkland grabbed a game high nine rebounds.

Four Francis Marion players scored in double figures led by Evrik Gary's 20. Robert Carpenter and Luka Zivkovic scored 17 and 16 points, respectively. Trevonte Dixon closed out the night with 11 points.

As a team, CSU shot 37.3 percent (22-for-59) while FMU shot at a 37.9 percent (22-for-58) clip.

Columbus State will be back in action on Sunday, January 12 taking on UNC Pembroke at 3:30 p.m. ET at the Lumpkin Center.