Cleveland State cranked up the second half of its Region VII Conference basketball schedule Wednesday night at L. Quentin Lane Gymnasium, welcoming Roane State to town.
The Cougars built an early lead and held off the determined Raiders to put a 72-63 win in the books while the 20th ranked Lady Cougars were not as fortunate, digging themselves an early hole they could not quite climb out of and eventually falling to the Raiderettes by a final talley of 74-68.
The Cougars hit the floor on the run and hit their guests with a 14-3 run to start the men's game as Keevin Tyus and Stetson Moore let fly from 3-point land.
Back-to-back treys from Jackie Hale and Matt Whitmire pushed the Cleveland State lead to 22-9. A 16-5 Raiders run stopped the momentum and helped the visitors erase the Cougars’ lead and briefly take a one-point lead of their own, 27-26, at the five-minute mark of the first half.
The Cougars then righted the ship and went back to work as Moore and Robert Brandon both hit long distance shots. Tyus added three tough buckets in the paint to help the home team reclaim a 10 point, 42-32 lead by halftime.
The Cougars shot a cool 50 percent from the floor in the first half while connecting from downtown six times.
The Raiders used a 10-2 run midway through the second half to cut the Cougars’ lead to a single bucket at 52-50. The visitors took the lead again briefly on two straight trips down the floor with six minutes to go. But once again Tyus claimed the paint as his own with four free tosses and three spinning layups to put the Cougars on top for good, 65-61 at the 1:30 mark.
The Cougars then salted away the win at the charity stripe hitting five free tosses to seal the hard-fought win. The Cougars won the battle of the boards, 41-36, and committed only 11 turnovers. The Raiders were their own worst enemy at times, hitting only 13-of-25 free throws.
"We've been working very hard in practice and I think it paid off tonight," stated Cougar coach Lee Cigliano. "We played hard and battled all night long tonight and hustled. We lost our focus a couple of times, but it's a good, positive start to the second half of the season. I think that we played one of our better games on both ends of the court and it is a good way to start the new year off with a conference win."
Tyus led all scorers for the Cougars (9-5, 4-4) with 26 points and 15 rebounds, Brandon was next with 13 points and six steals while Moore added 12 points to the cause. Greg Murphy led the Raiders (7-7, 5-3) with 16 points while Marques McCoy had 13 boards.
LADY COUGARS 68
The Raiderettes nailed a trifecta of 3-pointers in the first minute of the ladies’ contest, hitting the Lady Cougars with an 11-3 run right out of the gate. The Visitors continued the frantic pace in pushing their lead to a 40-18 bulge at the five-minute mark.
The Lady Cougars clawed their way back to within striking distance with a 10-0 run in the final minutes of the half, but still trailed at the break, 42-28.
Five different Raiderettes connected from behind the arc for six treys in the half while holding the Lady Cougars to only 39 percent shooting and causing 12 turnovers along the way.
The Raiderettes picked up right where they left off, scoring the first eight points of the second half to take a commanding 50-28 lead.
The Lady Cougars finally found the right gear and steadily sliced the lead into single digits over the next 10 minutes of play. A nice driving layup from Brandi Whitted cut the lead to seven points and a three-point play by Jara Gasper and another layup from Katrice Harris seconds later sliced the lead to four points, 66-62, with 2:24 to play.
The Lady Cougars had a couple of opportunities to shave the lead even more, but just couldn't get the roll as the Raiderettes hit just enough free tosses to hang on and secure the win.
Aysia Grimsley led the way for the Lady Cougars (14-2, 6-2) with 22 points. Harris was next with 14 points and Jamesha Mosley added 11 points and seven rebounds. Ashley Cox paced the Raiderettes (11-7) with 13 points while Shanae Brown added 12 and Nicole Hassler finished with 10.
Cleveland State will travel to Morristown Saturday afternoon for a big Region VII Conference showdown with Walters State.