In a contest that was moved to Cleveland after the Eagles nest was unavailable due to renovations, the Cougars were more than happy to play host after spending a long weekend on the road in Middle Tennessee. The Cougars sizzled the friendly nets of the “Q,” hitting 47 percent of their shots in the first half and 51 percent for the game. Six Cougars put double digits in the scoring column led by 20 points in the paint from Barry Griffin. The Cleveland State defense held Reinhardt to only 43 percent shooting for the game while causing 26 turnovers.
The Eagles scored the first four points of the game, but from that point forward, it was all Cougars. Buckets from Griffin and Gerard Gore in the paint and a long 3-pointer from Nick Ross led the charge. A rim-rattling slam dunk from Kasheef Baker helped put the home team on top by double digits midway through the first stanza.
The Eagles made a mini-run to cut the lead to only four points when Jalen Butler hit a 3, but the Cougars closed the half with a 21-5 run to take a commanding 51-30 lead at the break.
The Cougar lead grew quickly in the second half. Keith Johnson and Vincent Brown connected from downtown and Travis Jones drove the lane for several slashing layups, ballooning the score to a 50-point spread. Jameico McPherson and Dominique Macon both got into the scoring column down the stretch while Baker put the exclamation mark on the win with an alley-oop slam dunk from Jones.
After Griffin’s 20 points, Jones finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals, Johnson and Ross added 14 points each while Brown and Baker checked in with 13 points apiece. Baker added 11 boards for a double double. Cody Allen and Ira Hughley paced the Eagles with 12 points each.
Both Cleveland State teams will jump back into Region VII Conference play on Saturday, welcoming archrival Chattanooga State to town at 2 p.m. in the final games before the Christmas break.