The Columbus State Lady Cougars etched their name in the Peach Belt Conference record books with their 27th consecutive home win, a 73-64 victory over Clayton State Wednesday night at the Lumpkin Center. More importantly, the win also put CSU back in first place in the Western Division.
The win over Clayton State gives both the Lady Lakers and Lady Cougars identical records at 16-4 and 10-3 in Peach Belt play with six games remaining, all of them within the PBC.
The win came after an inauspicious start. The Lady Lakers raced to an 11-2 lead in the game's first three and a half minutes, in part due to a full-court trap defense that put the Lady Cougars on their heels and led CSU head coach Jonathan Norton to call timeout.
"They sped us up," said Norton. "They make you play faster than you want to play. They call it 'hurry up, screw up.' When I called timeout, we made an adjustment on how we'd break the pressure.
"I already told them in the locker room before the game that it would not be won or lost in the first five minutes," Norton added. "We knew this was going to be a heavyweight fight. They're going to run, we're going to make runs."
"One thing that we practiced this week was getting through that trap," said sophomore guard Eryn Cochran. "They're very aggressive and very physical on that full court press."
The adjustment worked as CSU made an 11-1 run of their own after the timeout to take the lead for the first time at 13-12 late in the first quarter.
Part of that run was made without the services of leading scorer Michelle Mitchell. She was out of the game for a quarter and a half due to an injury she suffered in a very physical contest between the two teams.
"I thought it was too physical, but once our girls expected that, we only turned the ball over three times in the second half after turning it over 15 times in the first half," Norton said. "I'm really proud of their toughness with the ball in the second half."
Gabby Williams was also out during part of the game with a minor injury. Players like Cochran and forward Ashley Asouzu stepped up and kept the Lady Cougars in front. Asouzu finished the game with a double-double, scoring 12 points and securing 16 rebounds, nine on the offensive glass.
"In the first half, I was a little sluggish, but with our top two scorers going down, I just knew somebody had to step up," Asouzu said. "Rebounds, steals, defense, offense, however I could contribute, I did."
Cochran contributed with eight points, but she was also a vocal leader for the Lady Cougars on the floor and on the bench.
"With the crowd being so into it and all of our cheerleaders getting loud, which we appreciate so much, I definitely thought it was important that we were all on the same page," Cochran said. "I knew as soon as I stepped on the court, I had to make sure everyone was focused, knew the plays, and knew what defense we were in because Clayton State is a very good transition team."
Norton was most proud, however, of the Lady Cougars setting the PBC record for consecutive home wins.
"It's huge. I've been a part of all of those wins. They've taken a lot of pride in protecting our house, as they like to call it," said Norton.
"It's definitely a big accomplishment. I'm very thankful to be playing with the team I have now," said Cochran. "I'm very blessed to be a part of the Lady Cougars."
Norton is excited about the final three weeks of the season.
"All our goals are ahead of us. We just have to take care of business, keep people healthy, and do a good job preparing," Norton said.
CLAYTON STATE (16-4, 10-3 PBC)
Daquenna Moore 4-7 2-2 10; Tierra Johnson 4-8 2-2 10; Tweety Hawkins 4-9 0-0 10; Kenisha Jones-Barret 5-12 0-0 10; Kayla Pryce 4-8 0-0 9; Dejoun Dennard 2-4 0-0 5; Shay Upshaw 1-3 1-2 3; Andrea Benford 1-7 1-2 3; Aniefok Udofia 1-3 0-0 2; Jessica Covington 1-6 0-0 2; Ashley Cunningham 0-0 0-0 0; Alexus Hynes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-67 6-8 64.
COLUMBUS STATE (16-4, 10-3 PBC)
Michelle Mitchell 9-18 0-0 18; Gabby Williams 6-9 1-1 14; Ashley Asouzu 5-11 2-4 12; Ashley Johnson 4-9 1-2 9; Eryn Cochran 3-7 1-1 8; Britteny Tatum 3-11 0-0 7; Brea Walker 2-4 0-0 5; Alexys Woods 0-0 0-0 0; Kristian Carter 0-0 0-0 0; Erin Morrow 0-1 0-0 0; Tatiana Wayne 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-70 5-8 73.
3-point goals--Clayton State 4-11 (Tweety Hawkins 2-3; Dejoun Dennard 1-1; Kayla Pryce 1-2; Jessica Covington 0-2; Kenisha Jones-Barret 0-1; Daquenna Moore 0-2), Columbus State 4-13 (Britteny Tatum 1-3; Eryn Cochran 1-4; Gabby Williams 1-2; Brea Walker 1-3; Michelle Mitchell 0-1). Fouled out--Clayton State-None, Columbus State-None. Rebounds--Clayton State 39 (Tierra Johnson 6; Daquenna Moore 6; Kenisha Jones-Barret 6), Columbus State 42 (Ashley Asouzu 16). Assists--Clayton State 11 (Kayla Pryce 4), Columbus State 16
(Gabby Williams 3; Michelle Mitchell 3; Eryn Cochran 3; Britteny Tatum 3; Ashley Johnson 3). Total fouls--Clayton State 14, Columbus State 9. Technical fouls--Clayton State-None, Columbus State-None. A-429