The Cougars outran their much taller hosts and cruised to 20-point win, 91-71 to start their season on a positive note.The Lady Cougars were not as fortunate, losing a controversial overtime battle with the Lady Golden Eagles, 83-76.
The lead changed hands several times throughout the first half in the men’s contest before the Cougars were able to sprint out to a nine point advantage, taking a 46-37 halftime lead. The backcourt duo of Travis Jones and Ralph Eason provided much of the first-half scoring punch with 13 and 12 points respectively. Jones and Tim Triplett each knocked down long range 3-pointers.
Trey Suttles poured in 11 of his 19 points in the second half while Eason let fly with two 3s from downtown. Kahan Swift added six straight points to the cause as the Cougars’ lead grew steadily into double digits. Jones hit 5-of-6 free tosses and Gabe Dando hit a 3-pointer as the visitors cruised to win No. 1 of the season.
Jones and Eason led the way for Cleveland State (1-0) with 20 points apiece. Suttles added 19 while Tre Everette had nine and Triplett finished with eight. Malcolm Riley paced the Eagles with 17 points.
“This was a good way to start the season with a good win over a quality opponent,” said Cougars coach Lee Cigliano. “We used four guys inside the paint: Everette, Suttles, Kahan Swift and Xavier Okoro to try to offset their height advantage, and all four guys played well. We shot the ball well, built a lead in the second half and continued to stretch it the rest of the way.”
The Lady Cougars built as much as a 10-point lead in the second half, but couldn’t hold on as the Lady Eagles managed to tie the contest and win it in overtime. Shot clock issues plagued both games, but especially the ladies contest where many Lady Cougar fast-break opportunities were whistled dead while officials tried to reset the clock.
Hannah Brown sizzled the nets in the first half with 15 points including three long-range bombs to help the Lady Cougars to a 32-29 halftime advantage. But they were hindered by the clock issues.
“They had problems with the clock and especially the shot clock all game long,” explained Lady Cougars coach Dan Lumpkin. “It was very frustrating. The officials stopped us at least a dozen or more times to fix or reset the clock. It was definitely a factor in the game.”
Robyn Anthony poured in 10 second half points while Jara Gasper, Brown and Mercedes Owens all connected from 3-point land as the Lady Cougars lead moved to 10 points midway through the half. But, Rosa Bryant and Shameekia Murray led a furious comeback by the home team to tie the game and send it into overtime. Murray dominated the overtime period with nine points as the Lady Eagles finished off the win.
Brown paced the Lady Cougars (0-1) with 18 points, Anthony finished with 17 and Chelsea Jones added 11. Bryant led the Lady Eagles with 28 while Murray finished with 17.
“It was a tough, physical game,” Lumpkin continued. “There were a lot of fouls called. Hannah shot the ball well from the 3-point line, but she fouled out late in regulation and that hurt us down the stretch. Chattahoochee is a good team; we hit a shot and tied it up at the end, but they took control in overtime. It’s a tough place to play.”
The Lady Cougars will head back to Georgia on Tuesday for a game at West Georgia Tech while the Cougars will host the Lee University junior varsity in L. Quentin Lane Gymnasium.