MEMPHIS — Wins on the road in basketball are sometimes hard to come by. Wins in the Region VII Conference in a hostile environment are oftentimes very hard to come by.
The Cleveland State basketball teams accomplished both feats Saturday afternoon, finishing off a long road trip in fine fashion with two big wins over the Southwest Tennessee Saluqis.
The Cougars remained undefeated on the campaign with a thrilling 82-80 win over the Saluqis while the Lady Cougars overcame a setback Friday at Dyersburg to get back on the winning track with a come-from-behind 75-74 win over the Lady Saluqis.
The Cougars and the Saluqis stood toe-to-toe for the entire 40 minutes in a knock-down, drag-out game that has become the norm between these two schools.
The Cougars held a small advantage in the early going, but a pair of technical fouls called on the visitors midway through the half turned a three-point lead into a deficit as the Saluqis hit five of the six free tosses. The Cougars were unphased by the setback and slowly regained their lead to take a 39-36 halftime lead.
“I was really pleased with the way we handled the adversity,” explained Cougars coach Lee Cigliano. “We could have just folded after the technicals, but we used it as motivation and came right back to take the lead.”
It was more of the same in the second half as each possession became crucial, with the lead changing hands on several occasions. The Cougars somehow found a way to come out on top as their depth played a key role down the stretch. Dontae Lippert and Travis Wildgoose led the charge down the stretch. Lippert poured in all 13 of his points in the second half to help the Cougars to the big win.
“I was very pleased with the effort today. We weren’t perfect by any means, but we got positive contributions from all 12 players who took the court and that was ultimately the key,” said Cigliano. “The guys were determined, didn’t let anything bother them and handled the pressure well. When one guy had to come out, the next guy stepped up and took over.”
Keevin Tyus paced the Cougars (4-0, 2-0) with 17 points and seven rebounds, Stetson Moore added 15 points including four shots from downtown and Wildgoose finished with 10 points and eight boards. DeVante Jones scorched the nets for 35 points to lead the Saluqis (3-1, 1-1). The Cougars shot 50 percent for the game while holding Southwest to 39 percent. The game remained close at the charity stripe as the Cougars hit 22-of -30 attempts while the home team knocked down 33-of-47.
LADY COUGARS 75,
LADY SALUQIS 74
The ladies’ contest set the stage in the first tilt of the day as the teams seesawed back and forth the whole way. Like the men, the Lady Cougars battled foul trouble early on, and their depth came into play the entire night.
“It was a tight game the entire way,” said Lady Cougars coach Dan Lumpkin. “Our young players really stepped up in a tough atmosphere and responded to every run. It was a big step for us to get this win after letting one get away from us Friday night.”
After managing a 32-28 halftime advantage, the Lady Cougars countered every second-half run by the Lady Saluqis with one of their own. Aysia Grimsley and Brittany Ramsey led the second-half charge as the Lady Cougars held on in a fast and furious finish to escape with the one-point win.
“This was a great learning experience for these girls; they weathered the runs and didn’t let up,” said Lumpkin. “Southwest was big and athletic, and they never came out of their press, which really surprised us because we handled it extremely well all night long.
“Foul trouble was a big factor again today, but everyone who played stepped it up and contributed to the win.”
Grimsley led the way for the Lady Cougars (3-1, 1-1) with 17 points, Jemesha Mosley and Jara Gasper added 12 apiece while Ramsey added 11 points and seven boards. Matoria Henley led the Lady Saluqis (0-3, 0-2) with 14 points while Keoshia McGhee added 11. The Lady Cougars shot 49 percent for the game while the Lady Saluqis shot only 41 percent.
Cleveland State will return home to host Snead State, Tuesday night at 6 p.m.