Saturday afternoon's Peach Belt Conference women's basketball game between Columbus State and Georgia College had the makings of a barnburner with the two teams a combined 25-7 overall and 13-7 in conference play coming into the game.
However, the Lady Cougars (13-4, 8-3) made sure the game was anything but close, as they shot a scorching 65.4 percent in the first half to open up a 16-point halftime lead and rolled to a 79-55 whipping of the Lady Bobcats (13-5, 6-5).
"When you combine how we did shooting the ball with the defensive effort we got and how well we rebounded the ball against a good team, there's no doubt this was our best win of the season," Columbus State coach Jonathan Norton said. "This was a nice win and a big surprise. Georgia College didn't play well or shoot the ball well and we did. It makes for a good win."
Neither team was able to gain much of an advantage for the first 10 minutes of the game, but CSU put its foot on the accelerator in the closing 10 minutes of the first half to take a 43-27 lead into halftime. The key burst was a 20-5 run over the span of 6:15 that took the Lady Cougars' lead from 20-17 to 40-22.
CSU made 17 of its 26 shots in the opening 20 minutes, with Asha Alexander (16 points) and Tae Smith (14) combining for 30 first-half points on 12-of-15 shooting.
Meanwhile, Georgia College -- which went a perfect 7-0 in non-conference play before picking up all its losses in the conference -- hit just 10 of its 31 first-half shots (32.3 percent) and canned only 2 of its 10 3-pointers (20 percent).
Even though the Lady Cougars did cool off in the second half, it was more of the same as Chatil Bradford picked up where Alexander and Smith left off, scoring 12 of her 18 points in the final 20 minutes as the Lady Bobcats got no closer than 15 points.
A key to CSU's strong second-half play was its work on the boards, as the Lady Cougars outrebounded Georgia College 28-16 in the second half to win the rebounding battle, 43-31. Carrie Washington led the way with 13, Bradford had eight and six other CSU players had at least two caroms for the game.
"We talked before the game about how we needed to outrebound them if we wanted to win the game," Norton said. "In all four of their previous losses, they'd been outrebounded by at least seven rebounds in each game. So, we did a ton of rebounding drills to get ready and we really challenged them at halftime to go out and get the ball and we did."
Smith finished with 22 points (on 9-of-14 shooting), four steals, three assists and two rebounds, Alexander had 18 points (on 7-of-11 shooting), three rebounds and two steals and Bradford had her 18 and 8 to pace the Lady Cougars' offense. The trio shot 21-of-32 (65.7 percent) for the game as CSU made 28 of its 54 shots (51.9 percent) overall and 6 of its 15 3-pointers (40 percent).
"We have three seniors that are carrying the load for us," Norton said. "When they score 18, 18 and 22, we're going to be tough to beat. It's hard to defend three really good players. You might be able to scheme to stop one or maybe two players. But three is really tough."
Brandi McKinney (17 points, five rebounds) and LaRice Walker (10 points, four assists) were the only Lady Bobcats to reach double figures as Georgia College made only 18 of its 64 field goal attempts (28.1 percent) and only 6-of-26 (23.1 percent) from behind the 3-point line.
Columbus State has now won four straight and six of its last seven going into Thursday's 5:30 p.m. game against Georgia Southwestern at The Lumpkin Center and Norton said the team's success has come due to a number of different reasons.
"We have great leadership from our three seniors and they're not just doing it in practice," said Norton. "They're performing at a high level in games, too. We also have great team chemistry. These girls understand their roles and would run through a wall for each other if we asked them to. Also, they go out and execute our gameplans really well. When we implement something in practice, they listen well, say, 'Yes, sir' and go out and do the best they can to execute it."