GREENWOOD, S.C. – Trailing by two points with 2:27 to play, the Columbus State University men’s basketball team closed on an 8-1 run for a 62-57 victory over Augusta Saturday in the Peach Belt Conference semifinals. The game was played inside Horne Arena at Lander University.
The victory sends Columbus State (20-8) to the PBC Championship game for the 12th time in program history. The Cougars will take on the winner of UNC Pembroke and Lander Sunday at 2 p.m.
“I’m extremely proud of the fight we showed today,” head coach Robert Moore said. “We got off to a great start, but Augusta punched us in the mouth in the second half and our guys responded in a big way.”
Three free throws from JaCori Payne stretched Columbus State’s lead out to 17 points, 42-25, two minutes into the second half and it looked as if the Cougars would cruise into the final.
However, Augusta (23-7) had a huge push still to come. Over the next eight minutes, the Jaguars went on a 16-2 run to pull within three at the 10-minute mark.
Columbus State stemmed the tide over the next few minutes until a Jaguar 3-pointer gave Augusta its first lead (50-49) since midway through the first half.
Augusta took the lead on three occasions in the final five minutes, but CSU had an answer each time. The Jaguars’ final lead came at 56-54 setting up Columbus State’s strong finish.
Marcus Dixon knotted the game at 56 off a great pass from Payne and Ryan Burnett pushed CSU back in front with a pair of free throws. After Augusta went 1-of-2 from the line, Payne knocked down two to make it a full one-possession game with 23 seconds remaining.
Augusta’s game-tying 3-point attempt fell off the mark and Darius Joell iced the game with two more from the stripe.
Payne led the Cougars with 17 points, going 9-for-10 from the foul line. Burnett finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Joell added 13 points. Dixon was huge on the glass for CSU with 16 boards.
CSU shot 42.2 percent (19-for-45) for the game and was just 5-for-22 from the 3-point line. The Cougars were 19-for-25 from the foul line.
Augusta was limited to 29.8 percent (17-of-57) overall and made 3-of-20 from beyond the arc.
Columbus State jumped out to its huge lead behind 67 percent shooting in the first half. CSU trailed 8-2 early, but used a 10-0 run to surge in front. John Lambert had five points in the run, capped by his first of two makes from outside.
Burnett and Lambert hit back-to-back 3s late in the first to push the lead to double figures and the Cougars took a 37-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.