Cougars squander 19-point lead in loss to Georgia Southwestern

Georgia SW 77, CSU 65

COLUMBUS, Ga. –  Columbus State saw a 19-point first half lead disappear as Georgia Southwestern rallied to beat the Cougars 77-65 Thursday night. The Peach Belt Conference contest took place at the Lumpkin Center. The Hurricanes closed the first 20 minute period on a 26-3 run and eventually built up a double-digit lead in the second half to post the victory.

The 19-point lead was the largest lead that the Cougars have lost this season and the ninth double-digit lead that the Cougars have squandered this year. CSU is 4-5 in those games but are just 1-4 in the past five.

The game started off well for Columbus State (11-8, 5-7 PBC) as the Cougars raced out to an early lead. DeAngelo Kirkland scored the first eight CSU points to get the scoring started and the lead was quickly increased to 10 (16-6) on back-to-back threes by R.J. Sessions and BJ Battle with just six minutes and 38 seconds off the clock. The treys were a part of an 8-0 CSU run.

The two sides were exchanging buckets until a Ty Harris layup began a 7-0 CSU spurt that gave the Cougars a 29-10 lead with 7:09 to go. Kenney Funderburk would follow with his first and only three of the game and Battle capped off the run with a one-handed jam off an offensive rebound.

The tide quickly turned for the Cougars as Georgia Southwestern answered with a 7-0 run to get back within 12 (29-17) with 5:45 to go in the half. Jamon Hawkins had five of the seven points including a three-pointer.

Harris would break the run with a three-point play after finishing a layup while getting foul. However, GSW scored 19 unanswered points in the final 5:19 of the half to take a 36-32 lead into the break. Over that time, CSU was 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-4 from the charity stripe. Alan Arnett and Hawkins fueled the run with eight and seven points, respectively.

At the beginning of the second half, Georgia Southwestern (17-5, 9-4) increased its lead to six on an Adrian Knight jumper on the opening possession. The Cougars would fight back within one on a pair of Funderburk free throws and a three-pointer by Sessions making it a 38-37 game with 14:57 to go. The three-pointer snapped a 10 minute and 30 second field goal draught for the Cougars.

With 12:38 to go, Daryl Davis nailed a three-pointer to push GSW's lead to 44-39 before six straight points by the Cougars gave CSU a 45-44 lead with 10:45 remaining. Jahmad Saleem laid one in to get the short spurt started and Shane Heyward scored the final four points including the go-ahead bucket.

However, similar to the first half, the Hurricanes scored 20 of the next 26 points to build a 13-point (64-51) lead with under five minutes to go in the game. Six different GSW players contributed including Arnett who had eight.

Columbus State was never able to cut the margin back to single-digits as the Hurricanes went on for the victory.

Jamon Hawkins scored a game high 20 points for GSW going 7-for-14 from the field while nailing 4-of-6 three-point attempts. Alan Arnett scored 19 while grabbing eight boards.

After scoring 28 points against the Cougars in Americus, Jonathan Brooks was limited to just two but did collect 12 rebounds.

For Columbus State, DeAngelo Kirkland was one rebound away from a double-double scoring a team high 12 points while grabbing nine off the glass. Kenney Funderburk was the only other Cougar player in double figures with 10.

Shane Heyward had a good defensive effort for the Cougars with six defensive rebounds and eight blocks. The eight blocks was the second most in a game in CSU history, just one shy of the all-time record held by CSU Hall of Famer Tim Thomas.

As a team, GSW shot 42.9 percent (27-for-63) from the field including a  42.1 percent (8-for-19) clip from downtown.

CSU was 25-for-66 from the floor (37.9 percent) and was a miserable 9-for-19 from the line (47.4 percent).

The Cougars will be back in action on Saturday when they host North Georgia at 3:30 p.m. ET at the Lumpkin Center.