By Chris Whitaker, The Americus Times-Recorder
Anthony Sargent scored 23 points, and Marcus Scott added 18 as Georgia Southwestern beat Columbus State, 77-74, at the Storm Dome on Monday night.
It was the Hurricanes' fourth win in six tries against the Cougars.
GSW (6-8, 3-5 PBC) scored the first 11 points of the game and eventually built a 16-point lead in the second half (47-31) before Columbus State (4-9, 2-5) rallied to tie the game at 66 with just under three minutes remaining.
The Hurricanes answered with a 9-2 run before holding on for the win.
"I thought we played with a real sense of purpose," said coach Mike Leeder. "The last few possessions we were making our free throws or dunking the ball. We hit a stretch where we were having jump shots, and they got back in the game. We went back to driving to the basket and got the foul or a layup and dunk."
The sense of purpose came after what Leeder described as the worst performance any of his teams at GSW on Saturday when it lost to then-winless in the conference UNC Pembroke.
"We came in Sunday and said we weren't going to talk about (Pembroke)," said Leeder. "We had a fantastic practice and the 45 minutes this morning were great."
The Hurricanes started the game on a 11-0 run and never trailed; they led 42-29 at the half.
Leeder said one big difference was having Damayrius Adside back on the floor after missing the last two games. He had four assists in 21 minutes, and his lone basket of the game put GSW ahead 63-57.
"It was huge to have him back in the rotation," said Leeder. "He did pretty good for not playing in a week."
Columbus shot 44 percent in the first half, but Leeder said it was the best defensive half his team has played this season. Rick Russell got in early foul trouble in the second half, and that's when the Cougars made their move.
"He's always quarterbacking things for us defensively," said Leeder, "and with him not playing as much in the second half certainly hurt."
Sargent was 7 of 17 from the floor and made 2 of 7 3-pointers while going 7-for-8 at the free-throw line. He and Scott combined for 28 points in the first half.
Chris Rawls had 11 points and eight rebounds, but it was his energy down the stretch - along with the crowd noise - that pushed the Hurricanes on.
Sean Miller scored 18, and Javarus Stewart had 14. Chris Telesford and Carlos Wright each scored 12 for the Cougars.
The win has them back in the middle of the pack after Clayton State lost again, this time a 68-67 defeat against Georgia College.
"We're one game up from last, and that shows the balance of the league," said Leeder. "Aiken, Armstrong and Augusta are head and shoulders above everybody else, and with Georgia College here on Wednesday, it puts such a premium on defending your home floor."
Tip-off for Wednesday's home game with GCSU is set for 7:30 p.m.
PICTURED: Anthony Sargent
PHOTO BY: Chris Fenn