The Columbus State men's basketball team saw a 15-point second half lead evaporate Tuesday night at the Lumpkin Center as visiting Lander rallied to beat the Cougars 94-89. The loss was the second straight for CSU and third in their last five games.
The Cougars (12-4, 6-3 Peach Belt Conference) led 59-44 with 12:35 left in the game, but Lander (12-6, 7-2 PBC) outscored CSU 50-30 the rest of the way to take the conference win and preserve their lead in the PBC's Eastern Division.
CSU coach Robert Moore diagnosed the 20-point swing to end the game.
"The first thing that comes to my mind is defense," said Moore.
"I didn't think we did a good job of guarding them. You've got to take your hat off to Lander. They kept putting the pressure on us by driving to the bucket.
"We've got to understand when we're up 15, we've got to make it 20. A 15-point lead now in the game of basketball with the three-point shot the game is not won. I didn't like our style of play late in the game. There were key plays we didn't make."
After the Cougars' Cam Baker scored a PBC season high 41 points in a loss to Georgia Southwestern on Jan. 7, Lander's J.R. Washington matched that on Tuesday night with a 41-point effort himself.
Washington scored 30 of the Bearcats' 56 second half points in the comeback win. Tobiasz Hose also chipped in 27 points for Lander, the only other Bearcat in double figures for the game.
"Any time guys come on your home court, you can't let them have career nights," said Moore. "Our guys have to take a little more pride protecting our home, and we didn't do that tonight.
"(Washington) saw that his team was down, and he felt like he had to take the game over. He was making great individual plays. In a situation like that, our guys have to take a little more pride and deny him the ball; don't let him touch it. I don't think we had that kind of grit, and it showed tonight."
The loss spoiled a balanced offensive effort by the Cougars against the Peach Belt's leading scoring defense in the Bearcats. Five CSU players finished with double-digit points, led by Baker's 30-point effort.
"I thought offensively, the guys moved the ball and shared the ball like we've been doing all year," said Moore. "I'm very comfortable with us offensively.
"I think defensively, we just aren't playing with a lot of pride and getting stops, and that's something we need to work on in practice to get better. It's getting late in the season, and things that are happening on the court shouldn't happen."
Only eight Cougars saw playing time on Tuesday night as DeMarcus McVay suffered an injury in CSU's loss at Augusta on Saturday. The core group of Baker, Darren Daniel, Brent Jackson, and JaCori Payne all logged 34 or more minutes.
Moore says the team will get a much needed day of rest before setting their sights on Young Harris, who currently lead the PBC's Western Division at 8-1, two games ahead of CSU.
"We're going to take (Wednesday) off. We've been going a long time, (so we'll) just get away from the basketball court," said Moore. "We'll come back the next day and really work on defensive principles and make sure we're ready to go and play at Young Harris on Saturday."
LANDER (13-5, 7-2 PBC)
JR Washington 13-22 8-8 41; Tobiasz Hose 7-12 13-15 27; Scott Elder 3-6 3-4 9; Matthew McClain 2-6 0-0 4; Sergio Smith 2-3 0-0 4; Rahu Purdie 2-3 0-0 4; Travis Fredimon 1-4 0-0 3; Tyree King 1-3 0-0 2; Jarryd Coleman 0-2 0-0 0; Taylor Buffkin 0-2 0-0 0; Telvin Gabriel 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-64 24-27 94.
COLUMBUS STATE (12-4, 6-3 PBC)
Cam Baker 9-15 9-11 30; JaCori Payne 6-11 1-1 15; Brentine Taylor 4-8 4-6 12; Brent Jackson 4-14 3-4 12; Darren Daniel 4-10 2-2 11; Arben Camaj 3-5 0-0 6; Matthias Sigurdarson 1-1 0-0 3; Marcus Dixon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-64 19-24 89.
Halftime--Columbus State 43-38. 3-point goals--Lander 8-17 (JR Washington 7-13; Travis Fredimon 1-1; Jarryd Coleman 0-1; Taylor Buffkin 0-1; Tobiasz Hose 0-1), Columbus State 8-23 (Cam Baker 3-4; JaCori Payne 2-5; Darren Daniel 1-4; Brent Jackson 1-7; Matthias Sigurdarson 1-1; Arben Camaj 0-2). Fouled out--Lander-Scott Elder, Columbus State-None. Rebounds--Lander 38 (Tobiasz Hose 8), Columbus State 33 (Brentine Taylor 6). Assists--Lander 10 (Travis Fredimon 2; Sergio Smith 2; Tyree King 2), Columbus State 15 (Brent Jackson 6). Total fouls--Lander 20, Columbus State 20. Technical fouls--Lander-None, Columbus State-Brent Jackson. A-923