With the win, the Cougars move into the quarterfinals of the tournament on Friday at 7 p.m. (EST) and a matchup with the top seeded Motlow State Bucks. That game, along with the Lady Cougars first round game tonight at 9, can be watched live on the world-wide web through the Cougar Sports Network by going to the Cleveland State website and following the links.
“At this time of the year, it sometimes comes down to the team that wants it a little more and I believe we wanted it a little more tonight,” explained an elated Cigliano. “We played well tonight. We played as a team and it showed. Gerard (Gore) and Jamial (King) did a good job inside against their big men, Phillip (Jenkin) and Keith (Johnson) got the job done on the offensive end, it really was a team effort tonight.”
The lead changed hands eight times in the first half while the Cougars and the Pioneers traded buckets for most of the first 20 minutes. The Cougars took a quick 6-2 lead when Johnson nailed two bombs from downtown. Jenkins took over from there connecting four times from 3-point land in the half. A three-point play by King and a long 3 from Billy Thompson late in the half, helped the Cougars to a 44-42 halftime advantage.
The Pioneers briefly took the lead early in the second half after Hunter Harris hit one of his many turn-around hook shots Motlow a 49-48 lead. From there, the Cougars regained the lead and slowly built on their momentum with a 12-2 run midway through the half taking a 64-52 lead with just under 12 minutes to play.
The Pioneers made a couple of runs down the stretch getting as close as four points with 1:10 to play. But, the Cougars were able to knock down just enough free tosses to secure the win and advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round. The Cougars shot 49 percent from the floor for the game sizzling the nets for 56 percent in the first half while holding the Pioneers to only 40 percent for the game.
Jenkins led five Cougars in double digit scoring with 21 points. Johnson followed with 19 points and 11 rebounds, Terrell Parks added 14 points while Thompson and King had 11 points each. Tim Eriste paced the Pioneers with 28 points and 16 rebounds and Harris added 22 points.
In other first round games, the seventh-seeded Dyersburg State Lady Eagles topped 10th-seed Jackson State64-54 and will play second-seeded Walters State on today at 3 p.m. Motlow State’s Lady Bucks (8th seed) eased by Columbia State (9th seed), 80-78 for a date with top seeded Chattanooga State on Thursday at 7:00 while the 10th seeded Dyersburg State men’s team lost to seventh-seeded Walters State 92-83. Walters State will advance to play second seeded Columbia State Friday at 3.