Columbus State coach Jonathan Norton was back on the bench Tuesday night, and the Lady Cougars returned to their winning ways with a 78-74 victory over Lander at the Lumpkin Center.
Norton did not accompany the Lady Cougars to Augusta in their 79-72 loss on Saturday after collapsing on the sideline in the fourth quarter of the Lady Cougars' overtime loss to North Georgia in Dahlonega, Ga., on Wednesday night.
"Games like (tonight) make any coach's blood pressure go up, healthy or not," Norton said with a laugh.
Michelle Mitchell finished the game with 27 points, tying her season-high, and 13 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season and second in as many games. It was a testament that the preseason All-Peach Belt selection is back at full strength after suffering a knee injury earlier in the month.
"I'm back to normal. I'm feeling no pain and I'm good to go," said Mitchell.
The Lady Cougars (13-3, 7-2 Peach Belt Conference) faced with a full court press defense from Lander (12-6, 6-3 PBC) in the first half of the contest.
"Coach Norton called a timeout and told us to kick it up the floor and dribble through them or just throw it to the person ahead," said Mitchell. "(Lander wasn't) helping as much in the backcourt."
"When they score, they're going to press; we know that," Norton said. "We know they're going to make a run. They give scholarships at Lander, too, and they have good basketball players, so they're going to make runs.
"My challenge to them was to handle their runs with execution and composure, not emotion and chaos. We can't get frustrated. I thought we did a fairly good job of that tonight."
The game was a tightly called one as the Lady Cougars ran into foul trouble. Ashley Asouzu and Gabby Williams fouled out of the contest, while Ashley Johnson and Britteny Tatum finished with four fouls. Norton, however, agreed with the officiating, a new standard in women's college basketball.
"I think it was well called," said Norton. "It's supposed to be called tight in the way they press and reach and grab. It's hard to call them all, but I think they did a good job. I thought they called it as cleanly as they could for a team that presses as much as (Lander does)."
"I knew they were going to be physical coming in," Mitchell said. "My mindset was just to try and show my hands, and I told my teammates to show their hands, but we still got into a little bit of foul trouble."
Despite their first two losses in the PBC last week, the Lady Cougars are still in the thick of not only the Western Division race but the conference race as well. They came into the week still ranked in the top 25 in Division II at No. 23. All the season's goals are still in front of CSU.
"That's what we told them. If we take care of business, we can still not only win our division but win the (Peach Belt)," Norton said.
"We know to just take one game at a time and stay focused on what we need to do for each game, work on our defense, and keep going to get to the top," Mitchell said.
LANDER (12-6, 6-3 PBC)
Bre Crum 7-15 4-4 18; Ashleigh Zandi 3-7 8-8 17; Sannayyiah Johnson 3-8 5-8 11; Breshay Johnson 4-9 2-5 10; Mylea McKenith 3-9 2-4 8; Ty'Hesha Reynolds 3-7 0-0 6; Jada Wallace 2-8 0-0 4; Lea Petit 0-1 0-0 0; Victoria Baldwin 0-1 0-0 0; Sakezia Kelly 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-65 21-29 74.
COLUMBUS STATE (13-3, 7-2 PBC)
Michelle Mitchell 10-15 6-8 27; Gabby Williams 4-9 4-4 12; Britteny Tatum 3-7 4-8 11; Ashley Johnson 3-5 4-6 10; Brea Walker 3-6 0-0 8; Ashley Asouzu 2-9 0-0 4; Tatiana Wayne 1-2 0-0 3; Erin Morrow 1-3 0-0 2; Kristian Carter 0-1 1-2 1; Alexys Woods 0-0 0-0 0; Eryn Cochran 0-1 0-4 0. Totals 27-58 19-32 78.
Lander 15 15 16 28--74
CSU 20 14 20 24--78
3-point goals--Lander 3-16 (Ashleigh Zandi 3-5; Sannayyiah Johnson 0-3; Ty'Hesha Reynolds 0-2; Victoria Baldwin 0-1; Bre Crum 0-5), Columbus State 5-17 (Brea Walker 2-5; Tatiana Wayne 1-2; Britteny Tatum 1-4; Michelle Mitchell 1-1; Erin Morrow 0-2; Eryn Cochran 0-1; Gabby Williams 0-2). Fouled out--Lander-Breshay Johnson, Columbus State-Ashley Asouzu; Gabby Williams. Rebounds--Lander 34 (Bre Crum 9), Columbus State 47 (Michelle Mitchell 13). Assists--Lander 4 (Lea Petit 2), Columbus State 9 (Gabby Williams 2; Michelle Mitchell 2; Ashley Asouzu 2). Total fouls--Lander 23, Columbus State 26. Technical fouls--Lander-None, Columbus State-None. A-522