COLUMBIA — The Cleveland State basketball teams hit the road for four tough Region VII Conference matchups in Middle Tennessee over the weekend.
The Lady Cougars required an overtime period to notch the only win of the trip on Saturday afternoon, as they finally downed the Lady Chargers of Columbia State, 75-72.
The Cougars’ cold shooting continued as they dropped a 58-49 decision to the Chargers.
On Friday night, the ball didn't bounce very well for either Cleveland team as they dropped a pair of games to Jackson State. The Lady Cougars let a halftime lead slip away and fell to the Lady Generals, 77-66 while the Cougars were tripped up by the Generals, 62-52.
LADY COUGARS 75,
LADY CHARGERS 72
Brandi Whitted knocked down 10 points in the first half including a pair of shots from downtown while Aysia Grimsley and Katrice Harris each added a long-range bomb to help the Lady Cougars gain a slim 33-28 halftime lead.
The Lady Chargers caught and passed their guests in the second half as the lead seesawed back and forth for much of the final 20 minutes.
Anika Nottinghham was a one-woman wrecking crew in the paint for the home team, pouring in 10 points in the first half then following up with 14 more in the second, before fouling out with just over three minutes to play.
"I think that was a big key in the game when Nottingham fouled out," explained Lady Cougars coach Dan Lumpkin. "We just couldn't stop her; we tried several different people on her without much success. Whitney Thompson played well; she drew a couple of charging calls and when Nottingham finally fouled out, it really made a difference."
The Lady Cougars found themselves with the ball and down by two with only 11 ticks left on the clock. A missed shot resulted in a huge rebound by Jamesha Mosley, who promptly put the ball back up and in to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The teams traded buckets in the extra period and once again the Lady Cougars found themselves down by a point with the ball and 19 seconds to go. This time a drive to the rim resulted in a loose ball and a mad scramble, as the seconds ticked away. Jara Gasper came out of the pile with the ball and dished it to Grimsley, who put it up and in and was fouled on the play. Grimsley sank the free toss for a hard earned three-point play to put the Lady Cougars on top by two.
The Lady Chargers almost pulled off a miracle as their last desperation shot rimmed out as the Lady Cougars hung on for the win.
"It was two tough games on the road after a long bus ride," the coach continued. "You always want to win, but like I told the girls, it's always tough to come out west and get a win in this conference — regardless of who you are playing — and we are happy to get a split."
Grimsley and Harris led the way for the Lady Cougars (15-4, 7-4) with 18 points apiece, Mosley checked in with 14 and Whitted added 10. Nottingham finished with a game high 24 points to pace the Lady Chargers while LaMarra Gordon added 23 points.
The going did not get any easier Saturday for the Cougars as the locked horns with the first place Chargers. Stetson Moore canned a pair of first half treys and Keevin Tyus tossed in 12 points in the paint to help keep the Cougar ship afloat, but the Chargers countered with a pair of 3's each from Arturs Bremers and Ikeem Bergeron-McClendon as the home team took a 33-26 halftime lead.
The Cougars got within six points of the lead in the second half, but never really threatened as the Chargers controlled the game down the stretch to take the win.
Tyus led the way for the Cougars (9-8, 4-7) with 20 points while Moore finished with 14. T.J. Dunans and Bergeron-McClendon paced the Chargers with 12 points each.
LADY GENERALS 77,
LADY COUGARS 66
Grimsley and Mosley provided a one-two punch for the Lady Cougars Friday night in the first half as the dynamic duo tossed in 13 and 14 points respectively in the half as the visitors took a 45-38 halftime lead.
It was a complete turnaround in the second half, as the Lady Generals turned up the defensive pressure and held their guests to only 21 points the rest of the way.
The Lady Cougars stayed within striking distance until the five-minute mark, trailing by only five points, but the home team knocked down just enough free tosses down the stretch to hold on and secure the win.
Grimsley paved the way for the Lady Cougars with 20 points while Mosley and Gasper added 14 each. Paige Hicks paced the Lady Generals with 18 points while Kenya Jordan added 14 and Nikki Cole had 13.
"Jackson did a great job, they played well in the second half and we didn't," stated Lumpkin. "We played well in the first half, but you have to play well for two halves and we didn't. Jackson took 44 or 45 free throw attempts — they made more free throws than we attempted. That was also a big factor."
The Cougars were almost as cold inside the gym in Jackson on Friday night as the temperature was outside. The Cougars went long stretches without a basket against the tough Generals’ zone defense. Simon Clifford was a bright spot off the Cougars bench with 11 first half points including a 3-pointer. Cleveland State trailed the Generals at halftime, 35-29.
The Cougars kept it relatively close for much of the second half, but couldn't quite get over the turnover bug. The Generals maintained a slim lead and did just enough to hang on to get the win.
"We struggled on the offensive end all weekend long," said Cougar coach Lee Cigliano. "Turnovers killed us both days. We had our chances both days, but had way too many turnovers and missed opportunities. When you score 52 and 49 points in a game, you are not going to win very often. Hopefully, getting back home will help us get back on track. We've still got seven conference games, so hopefully we can get things going and get ready for the tournament."
Tyus led the way for the Cougars with 18 points while Clifford and Matt Whitmire added 11 points apiece. Toderick Davis paced the Generals with 18 points.
Cleveland State will return home this weekend to the friendly confines of L. Quentin Lane Gymnasium, as Motlow State visits Friday at 6 p.m. for a pair of games. Volunteer State will roll into town Saturday afternoon at 2 for two more important region games.