Columbus State set to open conference play against Montevallo

Special to the Ledger EnquirerDecember 13, 2013 

"So far, so good" would be a pretty apt description of the season thus far for the Columbus State men's and women's basketball teams.

The men are 6-1 for the first time since 2002-2003, while the women are off to a 5-1 start for the second time in the last four seasons.

However, those great records in non-conference games won't mean anything starting today as the Cougars and Lady Cougars open Peach Belt Conference play against Montevallo at The Lumpkin Center. Tipoff for the women's game is set for 1:30 p.m., and the men's game will get under way at approximately 3:30.

"I like the fact that we're 6-1, but we've got a lot of improving to do if we want to do well in the Peach Belt Conference," said CSU men's coach Robert Moore.

"The journey is definitely not over."

Columbus State's men come into conference play on the heels of a 79-76 come-from-behind win over Fort Valley State Wednesday night at The Lumpkin Center.

The Cougars held a 14-point lead with under 13 minutes to go, but an offensive dry spell allowed the Wildcats to get back into the game and forced CSU to perform some late-game heroics to pull out the victory.

"When we play, we want to have 10 or less turnovers and shoot 70 percent or better at the free throw line," said Moore, whose team had 27 turnovers and went just 19-for-33 (57.6 percent) at the charity stripe.

"Those are our two biggest concerns as we get ready (for Montevallo). We have to be working on those things.

"I feel like our confidence is up because we've been winning games, but we have to work on our chemis

try and making the simple plays."

While the CSU men were getting the job done at home Wednesday night, the Lady Cougars went on the road to Albany State -- the only team to beat Columbus State this season -- and emerged with a hard-fought 56-54 victory over the Golden Rams.

Columbus State picked up the win despite shooting just 23-for-67 (34.3 percent) from the field, including 3-of-19 (15.8 percent) on 3-pointers.

The Lady Cougars also only made 7 of their 17 free throws (41.2 percent) and had 17 turnovers, but they also forced Albany State into 23-of-62 shooting (37.1 percent) overall, 2-of-15 shooting (13.3 percent) on 3-pointers and 22 turnovers as well.

"I'm really proud of the toughness we showed and the ability to grind it out on the road," said CSU women's coach Jonathan Norton.

"We'd been off for about 10 days and playing on the road affected our shooting, I think, but we played tough defense and rebounded the ball well. To be able to find a way to win on the road and grind out a victory makes me proud of the team."

Like Moore, Norton is happy that his team has posted a nice record in non-conference action, but he knows the toughest part of his team's schedule is still ahead.

"I told the girls in the locker room after the game that we're 5-1 in non-conference games and that's nice, but we're 0-0 in the conference," said Norton.

"We're getting ready to start conference play and we have to take it up a notch. I feel like we've played well in about half of our games, We've gotten our rotation set with about nine players, everybody's found their role and accepted them. The girls are really going out there and executing the gameplans we come up with for them."

Production from the reserves as well as taking care of the basketball are still concerns for Norton as the Lady Cougars prepare to host Montevallo this afternoon.

"The one big thing that concerns me is when we don't shoot the ball well, but we're getting in the gym and shooting a lot so we can try to get back into a rhythm," said Norton.

"We do have to protect the ball better. We don't have a ton of turnovers compared to the other teams in the league, but we still have three to five unforced turnovers per game and we have to get good shots every time down the floor. We also need more production from our bench.

"We need another guard and our post players off the bench to produce so that if we have a bad shooting night (like against Albany State), they can pick us up."

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