Murray’s free throws in final seconds lift Lakers to 73-71 win over Columbus State
MORROW, GA – Over the years, the Clayton State and Columbus State matchup has produced some epic games in men's basketball action, and on Monday, the matchup provided another one.
The Lakers defeated Peach Belt and in-state rival Columbus 73-71 at the Athletics & Fitness Center in the closing seconds with two clutch free throws by forward Omari Murray with two seconds remaining. With the game tied at 71 apiece, Murray was fouled driving to the hoop setting up the game-winning free throws.
Columbus had one chance to take a desperation shot at the buzzer but was unable to get a shot off.
In addition to Murray's free throws, guard Craig Wong had a career night, scoring 23 points and hitting 8-of-9 shots from the field. He finished the game, making 5-of-5 from 3-point range.
"This was an important win for this group, going into the break," said head coach Gordon Gibbons. "Our team responded in the 'gut-check' situation in the second half and was able to hold on with some big free throws in the end."
The win lifts the Lakers to 5-4 overall and 1-1 in Peach Belt Conference play, while Columbus drops to 4-4 and 0-2 in the league. Clayton State will take off for the holidays and return to action on January 3rd, hosting Armstrong in a 7:30 p.m. game.
The momentum swung back-and-forth several times in the second half of Monday's game, with the Lakers jumping out to a seven-point, 39-32, lead in the first couple of minutes on a three-point play by Wong.
The lead was short-lived as the Cougars came right back with four consecutive 3-pointers, two each by Idell Bell and B.J. Battle. After the 3-point barrage, a layup by Battle gave the Cougars a 48-39 lead with 15:26 remaining.
Clayton State answered with a 13-2 run over the next six minutes and a 3-pointer by guard Tony Dukes knotted the score at 52 apiece with 9:04 remaining. Both teams swapped baskets for the next few minutes until the Lakers pushed their lead to seven points, 70-63, on another 3-pointer by Wong.
The Cougars wouldn't give up though and went on an 8-1 run and tied the game at 71 on two free throws by Dimitri Davis, setting up the final seconds.
In the first half Clayton State raced out to a 15-point lead, 23-8, on a layup by Tim Budd only to have the Cougars come back. A basket by Battle with 54 seconds left cut the Laker lead to 31-30. Wong gave the Lakers a 34-30 advantage at intermission, draining a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Behind Wong's 23 points, forward Juron Dobbs posted a "double-double" with 15 points and 10 boards. Murray chipped in eight points and nine rebounds.
For Columbus, Battle finished with 21 points, followed by Bell finished with 20 points. Battle also had seven rebounds and five assists in the contest.