When a team loses a game in heart-breaking fashion, how it plays in its next game is a good measure of how much character that team has.
Columbus State's men's basketball team lost to No. 10 Montevallo Saturday afternoon on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but rebounded Tuesday night with a solid 70-58 victory over Clayton State in a Peach Belt Conference game at The Lumpkin Center.
"I thought we came out aggressively, especially on the defensive end, and once we got settled in, we really got into the flow of things," said Columbus State coach Robert Moore. "We threw a lot of defensive schemes at them and I think it really caught them off-guard."
Clayton State (4-3, 0-2) jumped out to a 10-2 lead 3:38 into the game, but Columbus State (7-2, 1-1) responded with a 13-2 burst of its own to go up 15-12 with 11:31 remaining in the first half. The teams traded the momentum for the next few minutes before the Cougars closed the first half with a 16-6 run over the final 7:26 to take a 37-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.
DeAngelo Kirkland led the Cougars with nine points and four rebounds in the first half as CSU shot 50 percent (14-of-28) in the first 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, CSU's defense limited Clayton State to just 11-of-31 shooting (35.5 percent) and forced the Lakers into 13 turnovers. Omari Murray was Clayton State's high scorer with six points and five rebounds.
The Lakers closed to within seven points at 42-35 with 15:02 to go following an 8-0 run, but the Cougars scored 10 of the next 12 points to go back up 52-37. Clayton State got as close as seven points one more time - at 53-46 with 9:30 left on a layup by Murray to cap off a 9-1 streak - but again the Cougars responded with a 12-4 run to stretch their lead to 65-50.
That 15-point lead would be the Cougars' biggest advantage as they cruised in the final minutes to the victory. They finished the game hitting 26 of their 53 shots (49.1 percent), including 6 of their 16 3-pointers (37.5 percent). B.J. Battle led the scoring with 15 points and four rebounds.
"I'm very encouraged going into the break, especially with how we rebounded after the loss (Saturday)," said Moore. "Games like that are going to happen. We just have to go steal one on the road somewhere else down the line. I really do love this team. We have a lot of depth at all our positions and we're so athletic that we cause a lot of matchup problems."
Shane Heyward pitched in 11 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots and Kenney Funderburk added 11 points, two rebounds and two steals in the win.
Clayton State was held to 35.7 percent shooting, making 20 of its 56 shots and only 3 of its 12 3-pointers (25 percent). Murray had a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds and Charles Shedrick finished with 12 points and four rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost two straight games.
Columbus State is now off until Jan. 2, when the Cougars head to Greenwood, S.C., to take on Lander in another Peach Belt Conference matchup. Tipoff for that game is set for 7:30 p.m.