The Cougars hit their guests with a 20-4 run early in the men’s contest to open up a 27-12 lead. Nick Ross and Keith Johnson nailed a 3-point bomb apiece while Travis Jones did his damage in the paint with a couple of driving layups. The Senators countered with a run of their own, slicing the lead to two points with just over three minutes to go in the half.
Griffin and Dominique Macon then went to work on the offensive boards to help the Cougars race back out to a 10-point advantage. But, once again the Senators stormed back with the aid of a 3-pointer from Leland Robinson at the buzzer to cut the lead to 47-43 at the break.
The Cougars sizzled the nets in the first half, shooting 54 percent and committing only three turnovers. The Senators shot a very respectable 47 percent and took the edge on the boards 19-18.
Cleveland State zipped out to a 10-point lead scoring the first five points of the second stanza and never looked back. Johnson poured in 15 of his 22 points and the Cougars’ lead grew steadily. Griffin continued his good work in the paint while Johnson filled the basket from all angles to help the home team build as much as a 17-point advantage with just over five minutes to play.
Jameico McPherson put the exclamation point on the win with a high-flying slam dunk and the Cougars cruised to victory.
“It was a total team effort tonight,” said Cougars coach Lee Cigliano. “Barry had a great game inside, we took the ball in when we needed to, Travis penetrated and Kasheef and Tiger gave us a lift defensively off the bench. We played well against a good team and we’re glad to get a big conference win.”
Griffin led the way for the Cougars (9-7, 3-5) with 24 points and 13 rebounds, Johnson finished with 22 points and nine boards while Jones and Ross added 17 points apiece. Brock Southerland led the Senators with 14 points while Lamar McKnight, Tony Wilkerson and Leland Robinson added 12 points each.
LADY SENATORS 80,
LADY COUGARS 40
The Lady Senators left no doubt as to who the ninth-ranked team in all the land was, dominating the ladies’ contest from start to finish. Walters State’s stifling defense held the Lady Cougars to only 13 percent shooting in the first half. CSCC hit only 4-of-30 shots. Kylie Smith and Aisjah Roan hit a 3-pointer apiece to spur a 20-2 run to open the game. The outcome was never in doubt after that. The Lady Senators shot nearly 40 percent and connected at will throughout the first half, taking a 40-10 lead at the break.
The second half was essentially just a formality. The visitors poured it on and cruised to the lopsided win. Portia Durrett led the balanced attack for the Lady Senators with 19 points, Kylie Smith added 12 points and nine rebounds while Akia Jones finished with eight points. Jessica Harper and Brittany Ramsey paced the Lady Cougars (5-10, 0-8) with nine points each and Mercedes Smith chipped in with six. The much taller Lady Senators controlled the boards to the tune of 56-34 and shot 45 percent for the game from the floor.
Cleveland State will hit the road on Saturday with a trip to Harriman for a big conference showdown with Roane State starting at 5 p.m.