The Columbus State men’s basketball team might be a little homesick.
After winning a nailbiter on Monday night at the Lumpkin Center in an 88-82 victory over Armstrong State, the Cougars dropped their third straight road contest Wednesday night, falling to Young Harris 90-79.
All three losses have been conference losses by double digits. The Cougars also have four home wins during that same period, with three coming by six points or less.
“Every game’s going to be tough from here on out,” head coach Robert Moore said after Monday’s home win. “You’re not going to blow anyone out. I think we won five games on buzzer beaters last year. Any way you get the win, you gotta take it.
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“I felt like we came out with more energy, more enthusiasm,” Moore added Monday, two days after a 20-point loss at PBC opponent USC-Aiken. “I thought the guys really needed this win. We felt like we laid an egg at Aiken. I don’t think we respected our opponent. Now, these guys realize every Peach Belt game matters. You just go have to go in there, play tough, and any way you need to get the win, you get the win.
“If you take care of the basketball and share it with your teammates, good things are going to happen. And you’re playing at home, so you felt like you could knock down a shot. Our guys did a good job looking out for each other.”
Leading scorer JaCori Payne poured in 25 points for the second consecutive game Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to defeat the Mountain Lions. He had scored a career-high 31 two games prior in a home win against UNC-Pembroke. The 25-point effort on the road was in stark contrast to his previous two contests away from Columbus as he scored 10 points in a loss to Flagler on Dec. 17 and just nine in Saturday’s loss in Aiken.
“I love playing in Lumpkin,” Payne said on Monday. “I shoot here every night, so it’s easy to shoot here in a game.”
The big men are getting in on the scoring action, too. Center Arben Camaj has picked up his offensive production of late, scoring in double digits in eight of his past nine games after totaling 14 points in his first four games of the season. Camaj sunk a pair of 3-point shots in the Monday home win over Armstrong.
“I think it was good, because when we hit the 3s, it made the zone (defense) spread out a little more in the 1-3-1, so we got some easy layups here and there,” Camaj said after Monday’s game. “I think we’re always ready to play at Lumpkin, because we practice here every day. It was a big win. We needed that.”
For the Cougars to achieve the same successes of last year’s squad, they will have to regroup quickly and learn to win conference games on the road. They are 0-3 in PBC games away from the friendly confines of the Lumpkin Center and have two more key conference games on the road for the upcoming holiday weekend. Both games are in the Palmetto State as they travel to face Lander in Greenwood, S.C. on Saturday and Francis Marion in Florence, S.C. on Monday. Their next home game is next Wednesday with a 7:30 p.m. scheduled tipoff against Georgia College.