The Lady Cougars made a first half run stand up the rest of the way as they took a 58-47 win over the Roane State Raiderettes, while the Cougars built a big second half lead and then hung on to post a 72-67 win over the Raiders.
With the win the Cougars break a three-game slide while the Lady Cougars bounced back from a setback last Tuesday at eighth-ranked Walters State to win seven of their last eight games.
The ladies traded buckets for much of the first half. Mercedes Owens provided a spark off the bench as she immediately hit a long 3-pointer to tie the game at 16 all. With the game tied at 18, Owens hit another shot from downtown to start a 9-0 run for the Lady Cougars and Robyn Anthony hit a trifecta of first half 3’s to help the home team hold its lead.
The lead went to 12 points as the Lady Cougars hit 9-of-11 free tosses in the first half, but a 3-pointer by Mikayla Bennett for the Raiderettes sliced the halftime advantage by Cleveland State to a 32-23 margin. Both teams played tight defense throughout the half as both teams shot only 26 percent from the floor. The key statistic was 16 turnovers forced by the Lady Cougars as they had only seven of their own to account for the nine point halftime lead.
Cleveland State maintained its lead throughout most of the second half. Diamond Freeman knocked down a pair of tough buckets in the paint as did Chelsea Jones and Shea Nunn to help the home team to a double digit lead. Two free tosses from Jara Gasper pushed the Lady Cougar lead to 11 points at the six minute mark.
A 3-pointer from Ashley Cox and a short jumper by Rameja Bell spurred one last run from the Raiderettes as they cut the lead to five points on two occasions in the final four minutes of the game, but the Lady Cougars weathered the storm and hit 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
Anthony paced the Lady Cougars (12-6, 5-4) with 18 points and seven steals while Gasper and Hannah Brown checked in with eight points each. Cox led the Raiderettes with 11 points while Jassmine Franklin had 10.
COUGARS 72 RAIDERS 67
Filipe Goncalves nailed a 3-pointer to put the Cougars on top, 3-2 in the opening moments but from there the one-two punch in the paint by Chudier Pal (6-foot-8) and Kevin Altidor gave the Raiders a lead for the next 14 minutes. The visitors flexed their decided size advantage with a variety of slam dunks and offensive rebounds.
The Cougars kept it close and regained the lead at the six minute mark on a steal from Travis Jones, who fed Trey Suttles for the layup and a 23-22 lead. The Raiders shot 52 percent in the first half, mostly in the paint, but committed nine turnovers while the Cougars shot 38 percent with only two turnovers.
The lead changed hands several times over the next several possessions as Gabe Dando let fly with a pair of threes while Pal added two more slam dunks to his impressive totals. A slashing drive to the hoop by Ralph Eason and two-footer at the buzzer would help the Cougars to a 33-30 halftime advantage.
The Raiders scored the first six points of the second half to take the lead, but a 3-point bomb by Ralph Eason tied the game. An old-fashioned three-point play from Kahan Swift tied the game again moments later and a steal and slam dunk from Goncalves put the Cougars on top for good with just over 13 minutes to play.
A three-point play by Eason and a pair of shots from downtown by Goncalves helped the Cougars build their lead to double digits. The Raiders made a late run, but the five point spread at the final buzzer would be the closest they would come as the Cougars held on for the big conference win.
Eason led the Cougars (11-5, 6-3) with 17 points, Goncalves was next with 15, Trey Suttles added 14 points and six boards and Jones finished with 13. Valentino Thomas paced the Raiders with 19 point, Altidor had 15 points and 14 rebounds, Pal finished with 15 points and 15 boards, and Jeff Terrell added 11 points. Cleveland State shot 54 percent in the second half and had only six turnovers for the game.
Cleveland State will stay at home next weekend as they host Columbia State on Friday at 6 and Jackson State on Saturday at 2. All four games can be seen live via the Cougar Sports Network by going to the Cleveland State website and following the links.