Columbus State University

Lady Cougars count on defense to carry them through PBC tourney

The Columbus State Lady Cougars, the prohibitive favorites in the Peach Belt tournament, are two wins away from being conference champions.

The Lady Cougars face Francis Marion at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The winner will advance to face the winner of the preceding semifinal game between Lander and Clayton State in the championship game Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

Columbus State defeated Francis Marion 63-52 in their only meeting of the regular season on Jan. 16 in Florence, S.C.

The semifinals and championship games for both men and women are being played on the campus of Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., who won the honor by virtue of their women’s team being the top-seeded team in the PBC Eastern Division. Last season, the Lady Cougars took the top seed in the Western Division, with the Lumpkin Center playing host to the final games of the tournament.

CSU, currently ranked fourth in the NCAA Division II women’s coaches poll, advanced to the semifinals by virtue of their 62-51 quarterfinal win last Saturday at home against USC-Aiken, avenging their one and only loss so far this season.

“It boosts our confidence a lot,” said sophomore guard Tatiana Wayne, who scored 11 points off the bench for CSU in their win last Saturday. “I know we had to get this win to get confident, and a big burden was lifted off our shoulders.”

“I don’t feel like it’s any different, but I feel like I have to go harder for my team and the program,” said Alexis Carter, who again filled her role as the Lady Cougars’ leading scorer during the season last Saturday with 24 points and 16 boards against the Lady Pacers. “At the beginning of the game, we set goals, and we try and set the goal higher every game.”

The Lady Cougars offense, second only to Lander in the PBC at 78.4 points per game, had an off night last Saturday with just a 62-point effort. However, the hallmark CSU defense, which has allowed a PBC-lowest 57.7 points per game, stood tall.

“It was definitely our defense,” Lady Cougar head coach Anita Howard acknowledged as the impetus in last Saturday’s win. “With that being one of my staples here as a head coach, our defense really carried us. That’s what’s going to help us win games throughout the tournament. Our offense is going to come and go, but you want to make sure your defense is there every night.”