Nobody can ever say Columbus State freshman R.J. Sessions is lacking confidence when it comes to shooting the basketball.
So, when he went 1-for-8 in the first half of the Cougars' Peach Belt Conference game against Georgia College Saturday afternoon at the Lumpkin Center, he didn't let it faze him.
He kept right on shooting, and his persistence paid off.
Sessions, a former Northside High standout, made 9 of his 13 second-half shots and finished with a game-high 26 points to help lead CSU to a 77-61 win over Georgia College. It was the Cougars' third win in their last four games and fourth victory in their last six contests.
"I watched (Sessions) in high school and in practice here and when he gets going, he can be really fun to watch," Columbus State coach Robert Moore said. "He's always ready to shoot the ball whenever you get it to him and if he misses, he's going to keep on shooting. I get the feeling he's going to score a lot of points for us over the span of his career here."
After scoring just three points in the first 20 minutes, Sessions got his shooting stroke going in the second half, scoring 20 of CSU's 22 points in a span of just under 10 minutes. During that time, he made three 3-pointers, five other baskets and a free throw as the Cougars (11-7, 5-6) maintained a double-digit lead despite an attempted rally by Georgia College (7-11, 3-8), which has lost three straight and four of its last five.
The game was close for the first five minutes before Columbus State went on a 9-2 run to open up a 17-8 advantage midway through the first half. Up 19-14 with just over seven minutes to go before halftime, the Cougars broke things open by scoring 15 straight points before taking a 34-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"I thought our guys did a good job today," Moore said. "We lost a tough game (at Georgia Southwestern Jan. 25), but our guys didn't stew over that loss. They came out and played hard. I liked the way we locked them down on the defensive end. Any time you can hold a Peach Belt Conference team to 17 points in a half, you're doing something."
Georgia College scored the first six points of the second half to close to within 11 points at 34-23, but the Cougars traded baskets to keep the Bobcats at bay. CSU stretched its lead back out to 17 points at 48-31 following a 3-pointer by Sessions, but Georgia College kept the lead in the 12-to-15 point neighborhood, never letting CSU blow the Bobcats all the way out, but never closing to within single digits, either.
Georgia College got within 10 points for the final time at 65-55 with 2:06 to go after a 3-pointer by Ryan Blumenthal, but Sessions got a dunk after a Bobcat turnover and the Cougars hit 6-of-8 free throws in the final 1:38 to allow CSU -- which shot 30-for-60 (50 percent) overall and 8-for-17 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range for the game -- to pull away for the win.
Sessions had five rebounds and two steals to go along with his 26 points. DeAngelo Kirkland had 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists and Kenney Funderberk added nine points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in the victory.
Georgia College made only 22 of its 62 shots (35.5 percent) overall and 6 of its 21 3-pointers (28.6 percent). Terrell Harris paced the Bobcats with 17 points and nine rebounds, Larrentis Thomas had a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds, Blumenthal had 13 and Royal Thomas chipped in 10, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in the loss.
Columbus State plays again Thursday, when the Cougars host Georgia Southwestern in another Peach Belt Conference game. Tipoff for that game at The Lumpkin Center is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The win together with North Georgia loss to Montevallo leaves the Cougars alone in fourth in the PBC's Western Division. Montevallo leads at 9-2, followed by Georgia Southwestern at 8-4, and Young Harris at 6-4.
"That's the Peach Belt Conference for you," said Moore. "Any win in our conference is a good win, and I think we'll come back ready to play against Georgia Southwestern. I look for both teams to come out and play well."