The Lady Cougars started slowly as made buckets were few and far between in the opening minutes. The home team turned the intensity level up a couple of notches with a full-court press resulting in several steals and easy buckets, turning a tie game into a big lead over the final eight minutes of the first half.
Aysia Grimsley spurred a 19-2 run with three straight buckets and a pair of steals to help propel the Lady Cougars to a 42-20 halftime advantage. The Cleveland State defense took control in the first half by limiting the Lady Cats to only 26 percent shooting and chalking up 16 steals.
The lead grew steadily throughout the second half. Brittany Ramsey, Jamesha Mosley, Brandi Whitted, Markiesha Campbell, Whitney Thompson, Katrice Harris, Krista King and Jasmin Fuqua all dented the scoring column while Tre'Ketta Bonds also added a point and a pair of rebounds in her first game back from knee surgery.
"It was a struggle early on, but then we put the press on, had some success, stayed with it and built a pretty good lead," said Lady Cougars coach Dan Lumpkin. "We played with good energy, the press was very effective, but we still need a lot of work and need to execute better in the half court because it will be a lot tougher when we get into conference play."
Grimsley led a very balanced scoring attack for the Lady Cougars (2-0) with 13 points, Campbell and Harris added 12 points each, Campbell added nine rebounds while Whitted and Ramsey finished with 11 points apiece. The Lady Cougars forced 32 turnovers and finished with 19 steals while shooting 46 percent for the game. Brecia Hall paced the Lady Bobcats with 17 points.
COUGARS 116 LIONS 55
The Lions held a 1-0 lead to start the proceedings, but after that it was all Cougars as the home team overwhelmed their guests with a smothering defense and smooth offensive attack the rest of the way. A 19-2 run provided the cushion the Cougars would need as they steadily increased their lead the entire game.
Keevin Tyus, Matt Whitmire, Robert Brandon and Jackie Hale took turns knocking down shots throughout the first 20 minutes as the Cougars sailed to a 57-26 halftime advantage. The Cougars blistered the nets to the tune of 59 percent in the first half while limiting the Lions to only 25 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers along the way.
The Cougars put it on cruise control the rest of the way as Kahan Swift, Ethan Hayes, Stetson Moore, Kendrick Williams, Marcellus Roberts, Travis Wildgoose, Dontae Lippert, Dantario Dansby and Simon Clifford all played and scored. Tyus, Wildgoose, Lippert and Roberts each added an exclamation point to the win down the stretch, with rim-rattling slam dunks.
Tyus paced the seven Cougars (2-0) in double digit scoring with 16 points, Whitmire finished with 14 points, Swift and Brandon added 13 each, Lippert had 12 while Wildgoose and Hale chipped in with 11 each.
Cleveland State will now jump into Region VII Conference play this weekend with a tough road trip to Dyersburg State on Friday night and Southwest Tennessee in Memphis on Saturday afternoon.