By Chris Whitaker, The Americus Times-Recorder
Georgia Southwestern installed the 2-3 zone defense for the first time this season on Tuesday, and it worked just enough against Clayton State.
Georgia Southwestern made 10 3-pointers of its own and held
Clayton State to 34 percent shooting in the second half as the
Hurricanes staved off the Lakers for a 65-61 win at the Storm Dome
Wednesday in part with the Pink Zone event for breast cancer
The Lakers were 2-for-22 from behind the arc.
It's the first series sweep of the season for GSW (9-13, 5-10 PBC) as well as its first against Clayton State (12-10, 5-10). It swept Columbus State and UNC Pembroke last season.
"I think it speaks volumes of how hard the kids have worked to grind out 18 conference wins," said coach Mike Leeder. "More importantly it gives us the first tiebreaker if we end up tied, having beat them twice."
The Hurricanes started hot, making 8 of their first 12 shots, including 5 of 6 3-pointers to run out to a 21-9 lead. Anthony Sargent scored 14 of his team-high 18 points in the first half, which included four-consecutive 3-pointers.
"Very few times we have played with a double-figured lead," said Leeder. "I was happy for Anthony. He's a great shooter, and it's great to see him finally make some. He's a hard-working kid, and he gets everyone excited. We played off him in the beginning."
Clayton rallied to tie the game at 36 right before intermission when Damayrius Adside dribbled to the 3-point line with less than five seconds remaining to drain a three as the buzzer sounded to end the half.
The Lakers finished the final 11:14 of the half making 12 of 17 shots and outscoring the Hurricanes 25-13, 17-6 over the final 5:15.
Sargent left for the locker room with less than three minutes remaining in the half. Leeder said he was physically ill, and he and Roderick split time the second half.
Brian Kelly's offensive rebound and score tied the game at 40 early in the second half when GSW slowly stretched the lead back to 10 at 56-46 at the 9:28 mark. Chris Rawls' made his first 3-pointer of the season during the run.
"We were very fortunate, that was not a staple of Chris' game," said Leeder. "It came at a great time. They missed some right there that they probably make."
In the teams' first meeting, an 85-83 GSW win in overtime, Freddie Williams led Clayton with 27 points. He finished with 11 this game before leaving with 10 minutes remaining and didn't return.
Bernard Fields tried to pick up the slack, scoring six of his game-high 22 points the rest of the way.
"One thing (Williams) did was he got a few offensive rebounds, and he had the ability to drive the zone," said Leeder. "That was hurting us the first half. When he went out, that was one less guy who could collapse the zone and open it up for shooters.
"Our guys did a great job of executing the zone. They were active in it for something we haven't worked on at all. They did a good job of recognizing who the 3-point shooters were and who they weren't."
The Hurricanes made five field goals over the final nine minutes, but managed to make 6 of 11 free throws to stay ahead.
For the game, GSW was 13 of 24 in free throws compared with 7 of 12 for the Lakers.
Rawls and Adside, who didn't start along with Marcus Scott, finished with nine points apiece. Rawls added seven rebounds.
GSW is tied with Clayton State and North Georgia for the eight through 10 spots with five games to go. The Hurricanes are a half game behind Lander for seventh and 3 1/2 games ahead of North Georgia.
They are on the road the next four games before returning for homecoming on Feb. 28 against Augusta State.