The Lady Cougars dug themselves a big hole to start, but climbed out of it in fine fashion to take the ladies’ contest by a final score of 70-54 over the Lady Parsons while the Cougars climbed an even higher mountain as they erased a 16-point deficit to take a thrilling 66-64 last second win over the Parsons.
To say that the Lady Cougars were cold to start the game would be an amazing understatement as the Lady Parsons threatened to blow the home team right out of their own gym with an 11-0 run. A 3-pointer from Jara Gasper finally got Cleveland State on the board with just over 14 minutes left in the half. Meanwhile the Lady Parsons were red hot as Ashunte Smith hit three shots in a row including a trey to push the visitors’ lead to 14 points at 21-7.
The real Cleveland State ladies team then entered the gym at the nine-minute mark and proceeded to turn the tables and finish the half with a 16-2 run to somehow manage to tie the game at 23-23 at halftime. Despite shooting only 25 percent from the floor in the first half Cleveland State did hit eight of their final 11 shots and force 15 turnovers. A steal and a layup from Robyn Anthony turned into an old fashioned three-point play, Hannah Brown followed that with a shot from downtown and Shea Nunn added a layup to tie the game just before the buzzer.
Brown hit a short jumper to start the second half to give Cleveland State its first lead of the night as the lead would change hands nine times in the first 10 minutes of the period. Another three from Brown and a steal and layup from Anthony would put the Lady Cougars on top to stay.
Chelsea Jones banked home a long 3-pointer and converted a three-point play after taking a hard foul to her already broken nose as the Lady Cougars pushed their lead to nine points at the four minute mark, 58-49. The Lady Cougars hit 8-of-10 free tosses down the stretch to seal the win and hit 19-of-25 overall.
"That play right there where Chelsea got up and converted the three-point play inspired the team," explained Lady Cougars coach Dan Lumpkin. "She's playing with a mask on a broken nose and the rest of the team fed off her to finish the game."
Anthony paced the Lady Cougars (7-5) with 20 points and eight big steals while Jones, Brown and Gasper all chipped in with 10 points apiece. Smith led the Lady Parsons (7-5) with 15 points while Summer Starr added 14.
"This was a big win for us; we owed them one after they beat us at their place," stated Lumpkin. "It was a tremendously physical game and it will really help us prepare for this type of play in our conference games. Snead is a good team. We started slow down there too, but this time we were able to get some stops and score at the same time and take control in the second half."
COUGARS 66 PARSONS 64
Just like the ladies did in their game, the Cougars started off slowly in the men's contest, but unlike their female counterparts, the Cougars never quite warmed up in the first 20 minutes. Brandon Graham hit a three-pointer and slammed home an offensive rebound while Austin Watkins added a trey of his own as the Parsons opened the game with an 8-0 run. The Parsons would hit four more shots from behind the arc in the half while the Cougars connected on only one of their 10 tries from downtown. The Cougars would trail by as many as 15 points and by 12 at halftime, 34-22, shooting only 31 percent from the floor compared to 45 percent for the Parsons.
Still trailing by 12 points at the 12-minute mark in the game, the Cougars employed their full-court press and with great results, as several turnovers ensued. A three-pointer from Filipe Goncalves cut the lead to single digits during an 8-0 Cougar run as the Parsons’ lead shrunk to a 51-48 advantage.
"We don't like to press for 40 minutes, especially when we are shorthanded, but once we started we stayed with it and it worked out well," stated an exhausted Cougar coach Lee Cigliano. "It not only caused them problems and took them out of their game, but it gave us the energy and the momentum to come back."
Two more shots from three-point land by Goncalves and a layup from Ralph Eason helped slice the lead to only one point with 59 seconds to go. Following two huge defensive stands, Travis Jones gave the Cougars their first lead of the night, 65-64 from the charity stripe with only 42 ticks left on the clock. Jones added another free toss with eight seconds left and the Cleveland State defense forced one more turnover with two seconds to go to seal the amazing comeback win.
"Somehow we found a way to come back and win this game; it wasn't always pretty, but we didn't give up and just kept coming against a very good team," the coach continued. "I can't think of a better example of a total team effort than tonight. We just had nine players available and all nine contributed in some way."
Goncalves and Jones led the Cougars (10-2) with 13 points each, Eason added 12 points and Gabe Dando finished with 11. DeMarcus Robinson paced the Parsons (4-6) with 12 points while Graham and Austin Watkins added 11 each. The Cougars shot 53 percent in the second half to more than make up for the frigid first half.
Cleveland State will now travel to Chattanooga State on Saturday at 2:00 for a big Region VII showdown with the Tigers.