Columbus State 68, Francis Marion 51: Lady Cougars win despite streaky play

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 10, 2014 

It wasn't as consistent a performance as coach Jonathan Norton likes to see out of his Columbus State women's basketball team.

The shooting went from hot to ice cold, and the rebounding, usually a strength, was a struggle all night.

Still, the Lady Cougars found a way to score a double-digit win, 68-51, over visiting Francis Marion on Friday at the Lumpkin Center, avoiding a two-game losing streak and striking a blow to one of the top teams in the conference.

"We hope this gives us some momentum," Norton said after the win, the Lady Cougars' third in a row over the Lady Patriots.

"They were 8-2 and had beaten some good teams in the conference, teams we didn't beat, so it was a big win."

While Columbus State (8-3, 3-2 Peach Belt Conference) lacked some consistency in the game, it did show an ability to respond to adversity. After shooting 52 percent from the field in the first half, building up a 38-27 lead, it came out ice cold in the second.

After two buckets gave them a 42-29 lead, the Lady Cougars went a full eight minutes without hitting a field goal, notching just a single free throw and allowing Francis Marion (8-3, 3-2) to go on an 11-1 run.

The score was 43-40 when Tae Smith finally knocked a shot down to end the drought.

"Every coach will tell you they're fearful of going into the half with a double-digit lead," Norton said, noting that the Lady Patriots adjusted to an aggressive 2-3 zone to limit his team's opportunities.

"We came out comfortable," Asha Alexander said. "That's dangerous."

Columbus State turned up the pressure itself after the bucket, creating a handful of turnovers and easier scores in transition.

"Our offense starts from the defense," said senior forward Chatil Bradford, who scored 15 points in the game.

"We were able to get some fast breaks and some easy layups to help our confidence a bit."

After shooting 3 of 14 from the field for the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Lady Cougars hit 10 of 16 down the stretch to earn the 17-point win.

They forced 24 turnovers in the game, 11 in the first half and 13 in the second, to fuel their offensive outbursts.Alexander led the way in the game, notching game highs in points (18) and rebounds (8).

The strong performance provided a nice gift for Alexander, who was celebrating her 22nd birthday.

She stressed how big it was for her team to avoid back-to-back losses, especially playing on the home court.

"We lost a bad one on the road last time out, so we needed to get that confidence back," she said.

Bradford seconded that statement, noting that both success and failure are contagious.

"It's like a chain reaction," she said. "Now, we want to go win on Sunday and make it two in a row and kind of get on a run."

The Lady Cougars host North Carolina-Pembroke at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lumpkin Center.

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