The Columbus State Lady Cougars basketball team took a more refined approach to their two games this week, a home contest against Armstrong State on Monday night and a road game Wednesday night at Young Harris.
The new style translated to a pair of double-digit wins, 79-60 over the Lady Pirates on Monday and 65-49 over the Lady Mountain Lions on Wednesday.
The fast-paced offense, led by first-year head coach Anita Howard pumped the brakes a little in the past two games after their first loss of the season Saturday at USC-Aiken. CSU put up a season-low 65 shots in the Monday home win over Armstrong, but the selectiveness paid off as they had a season high in field goal percentage at 47.7 percent. They took just one more shot in their win at Young Harris on Wednesday.
“I think the loss to Aiken lingered a bit in our heads,” Howard said after Monday’s win. “It was good to be able to put that behind us and continue to move forward, going in the right direction. When we played Pembroke (in a win on Jan. 4), the final two quarters were kind of off for us, and we brought that into the Aiken game.
“Now we just have to get back in the swing of things and play our type of basketball: transition basketball, pressure defense. Once those things started to happen, things opened up, and we were able to relax and have fun.
“I wanted to slow the tempo (Monday). I felt like Armstrong could match our tempo up and down, so I said let’s control the half court set. We did by design tell Keyrra (Gillespie) to slow it down, execute our offense and play an inside out game.”
Gillespie scored 12 points in Monday’s win.
“I think it started off with our defense,” Gillespie said.
She was held off the scoreboard Wednesday night but picked up a team-high 11 rebounds at Young Harris.
“I was surprised,” Gillespie said. “I didn‘t know what we were going to come in and do. I didn’t know if the loss was going to affect us, or if we were going to get over the hump, and I’m glad we did. Our defense got our offense going a lot more in the second half, pressuring the ball, getting turnovers. That’s what got us going.”
Alexis Carter, who scored 25 points Monday but was held to five points in limited time Wednesday, agreed.
“Our mindset was playing smarter, not harder, make the shots they give us, or run the plays, execute them until they’re tired, and make the shot,” Carter said.
For Carter, a junior college transfer who is playing her first season at CSU, Wednesday’s game ended three straight double-double games, starting with a triple-double against UNC-Pembroke on Jan. 4 with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 blocks.
“Shes a phenomenal player,” Howard said of the junior. “I saw one glimpse of her game (Monday) where she was whipping the ball and attacking the basket, and that’s what I want to see. She’s been in chill-mode a little too long, and that’s why she’s not getting a triple-double every night. If she plays like she did (Monday night) on a daily basis, she’s going to be one heck of a player to try and stop.”
The Lady Cougars will spend the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend on the road at Lander on Saturday, then at Francis Marion on Monday. They return home on Wednesday to face Georgia College, with tipoff at 5:30 p.m. in the Lumpkin Center.