4th-ranked Clayton State defeats 3rd-ranked USC Aiken 56-50; remains undefeated at 14-0
Aiken, SC – It was a match-up between the 3rd and 4th-ranked women's teams in NCAA Division II, and the game lived up it to all the billing … and more.
The 4th-ranked Clayton State Lakers won the battle between the two undefeated teams from the Peach Belt Conference, pulling out the victory in the final minutes of a tight game Wednesday at USC Aiken's Convocation Center.
With the game tied at 50 apiece and under a minute to play, the Lakers scored six straight points and held the Pacers scoreless on its last three possessions to pull out the win.
Center Shacamra Jackson gave the Lakers a two-point lead, 52-50, on a driving layup, off a pass from guard Drameka Griggs. After a USC Aiken miss, Clayton State guard Kayla Pryce hit another driving shot in the paint off another assist by Griggs to give the team a 4-point lead with 25 seconds remaining.
A Clayton State foul on the ensuing possession led to two misses at the free throw line by the Pacers, but USC Aiken got the rebound only to misfire from 3-point territory. After a Pacer foul, Griggs drained two free throws to seal the victory 56-50.
"The game lived up to all the hype," said head coach Dennis Cox. "It was a matchup of two good teams, and two really good defensive clubs. We showed a lot of toughness in a real physical game. Aiken is a great team, and in a game like that, it really is a shame that someone had to lose. Both teams played their hearts out."
The Lakers defense, which ranks among the nation's best shined again, especially in the second half. The Lakers held the Pacers to 26 percent (14-of-54) from the floor for the game, and only four baskets in the second half (4-of-29). USC Aiken kept the game close, hitting 16-of-24 free throws in the period.
The game was tight throughout the second half, as the lead changed hands six times and was tied on six different occasions.
USC Aiken raced out to an 11-2 lead to open the game only to have the Lakers battle back. Clayton State took its first lead, 18-16, on a layup in transition by Griggs with 8:27 remaining in the first period. The Lakers pushed its lead to six points, but USC Aiken closed the half with a 6-0 run to knot the score at 25 at intermission.
Commenting on a second half injury by USC Aiken standout forward Kayla Harris, Cox said, "Kayla is one of best players in the country, and I hope and pray that she is not seriously injured. It is a shame that someone got hurt in a game like that."
With the win, the Lakers improve to 14-0 overall and 7-0 in the conference, while USC Aiken drops to 12-1 on the year and 5-1 in PBC play. The Lakers will return to Peach Belt action on Saturday, hosting UNC Pembroke in a 1:30 p.m. contest.
Clayton State senior sensation Griggs once again led the attack, scoring 20 points to go along with nine boards. She also had five assists and three steals in the game. Behind Griggs' 20 points, Pryce and Jackson each had nine points. Jackson also finished with six rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Center Shannon Smith finished with seven rebounds.
For USC Aiken, guard Daniela Tarailo finished with 12 points, followed by Harris with 11 points. Forward Porsha Martin chipped in 10 points and had a game high 15 rebounds.