Clayton State men persevere, win 74-71 thriller over No. 24-ranked USC Aiken
MORROW, Ga. – January 28, 2012 – Clayton State men's head basketball coach Gordon Gibbons has been looking for the moment this season when his Lakers truly come of age. That may have happened on Saturday evening.
The Lakers overcame some early adversity and made some big plays down the stretch to win a huge 74-71 thriller over visiting USC Aiken in Peach Belt Conference at the Athletics and Fitness Center. Clayton State, which has now won two straight and three of its last four, improves to 12-6 overall and 5-5 in the Peach Belt. USC Aiken, which is ranked 24th in the nation in Division II, drops to 15-4 overall and 9-2 in the Peach Belt.
Clayton State was down by nine points in the second half when the Lakers made their move. Trailing 59-50 at the 11:34 mark, the Lakers went on a big 20-6 run to take a five-point lead.
It started with three straight 3-point baskets in succession from Torrin Greene, Teondre Williams and Reco Lewis. The 3-point basket by Lewis tied the game 59-59 with 9:27 remaining. Over the next two minutes, the two teams traded leads before the Pacers tied the game 65-65 on two Re'mon Nelson free throws with 7:30 remaining.
Back-to-back lay-ups from Lewis and Tony Dukes increased the Laker lead to four points, and a free throw by Williams gave Clayton State a 70-65 lead at the 4:13 mark. USC Aiken trimmed the lead to one point on lay-ups by center Joel Gierbolini and Nelson, but Clayton State answered as Williams scored on a backdoor lay-up off a pass from Dukes with 1:28 remaining.
Two free throws by Gierbolini trimmed the Clayton State lead to one point with 20 seconds remaining. With possession, Salter was fouled with 17 seconds, but missed the front end of the one-and-one to give the Pacers another opportunity. Nelson drove the lane and fired up a 10-foot baseline jumper that missed and was rebounded by Clayton State center Andrew Bachanov.
Fouled on the play with six seconds remaining, Bachanov made both free throws to push the Clayton State lead back to three points. Nelson's desperation 3-point attempt to tie it was off as time expired.
The Lakers rallied after battling tough adversity in the first half in which Clayton State was whistled for two technical fouls. Clayton State led by as many as six points in the first half, but USC Aiken closed out the half on a 7-2 run and led 41-36 at halftime.
Senior point guard Anthony Salter tallied 21 points to pace Clayton State, while Williams scored 18 points and Lewis scored 10 points off the bench. In addition, Greene scored nine points and Dukes added eight points for the Lakers. Clayton State shot 47 percent from the field and 48 percent (12-for-25) from 3-point range.
In the second half alone, the Lakers were a sizzlin' 7-for-10 from 3-point range.
For USC Aiken, Ronald Zimmerman scored 15 points off the bench, while Nelson scored 11 points and Chase Holmes scored 10 points. In addition, Gierbolini scored nine points and Maurice Hubbard added eight points for the Pacers.
Clayton State plays host to Coastal Georgia on Wednesday in a non-conference game at 7:30 p.m.