“Our motto every day is survive and advance.”
Those were Columbus State men’s basketball coach Robert Moore’s words after their 84-66 win last Saturday at home against USC-Aiken in the Peach Belt quarterfinals.
With the win, the Cougars hit the road to Lander University in Greenwood, S.C, to face Augusta University, who the Cougars defeated in the regular season 86-80 at the Lumpkin Center back on Dec. 19. Lander plays host by virtue of their women’s team having the highest seed in the East Division.
“We beat them last time at our place, but at tournament time, anything can happen,” Moore said. “It’s on a neutral court, so it should be a great game.”
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Augusta dispatched Montevallo 107-99 last Saturday, pitting them against the Cougars at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner will face the winner of Lander and UNC-Pembroke on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the championship game. CSU defeated both teams in the regular season with a narrow 91-88 win over UNC-Pembroke at home on Jan. 4 and an 80-66 road win at Lander on Jan. 14.
The Cougars offense is clicking at the right time heading into the tournament. Both center Arben Camaj and guard Vic Ellis had season highs in scoring in last Saturday’s win against USC-Aiken, with Camaj finishing with an even 20 points.
“I was just feeling it,” Camaj said. “My teammates were letting me know I was close to 20, but I was still playing team ball. It was a good win.”
Ellis poured in 18 points off the bench, while JaCori Payne scored 17 and Marcus Dixon had 10. Eight different Cougars scored in an afternoon where balanced scoring was key.
“I think this is a really special team,” Camaj said. “Even when people don’t score, we have guys come off the bench who can get a bucket, so we’re very versatile in that position.”
This week, the Cougars have set their sights on taking care of business against two of three teams they have previously defeated. Camaj knows, however, that it’s an entirely different game at tournament time.
“I just have to come out really focused,” Camaj said. “I try to get the team all together. We just have to rest, focus, and treat this as a business.”