Top-ranked Lander falls to No. 2 Clayton State, 83-81
MORROW, Ga. – Number one versus number two lived up to its billing as two national heavyweights delivered one punch after another. But Clayton State delivered the final punch at the end as the No. 2 Lakers handed top-ranked Lander its first loss of the season 83-81 Thursday night.
In front of a sellout crowd at the Athletics & Fitness Center on Clayton State's campus, the only two unbeaten teams in NCAA Division II women's basketball battled to nine ties in the second half. Tanisha Woodard's basket in the paint with 5.7 seconds left broke the final tie and would be the game-winner for the Lakers.
Clayton State outscored the Lady Bearcats 14-2 over the game's final three minutes and 50 seconds.
The loss snapped Lander's school-record 23-game winning streak. The Lady Bearcats fell to 23-1 overall, 13-1 in the Peach Belt Conference.
Clayton State improved to 23-0 overall, 13-0 in the PBC.
Shannon McKever had a huge game for Lander, posting her 12th double-double of the season with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting and 12 rebounds.
Jasmine Judge hit five 3-pointers and finished with 15 points for the Lady Bearcats. Tasheba Butler added nine rebounds, Brittni Johnson led Lander with seven assists, and McKever added four steals and three blocked shots. Ciara Lyons added eight points and six assists.
The Lady Bearcats shot extremely well, hitting 29 of 56 shots from the floor (52 percent), 13 of 20 free throws (65 percent), and 10 of 20 from 3-point range (50 percent). They also had an impressive 24 assists on 29 field goals.
Lander had a 35-32 edge on the boards but committed 27 turnovers.
Tillman was Clayton State's star, hitting 11 of 17 shots from the floor. Tillman finished with 24 points, while Woodard added 14 points, eight assists and six steals.
Brittany Hall also scored 14 points for the Lakers, Drameka Griggs added 11 points, and Breanna Fort scored 10. Shacamra Jackson contributed eight points and four blocked shots.
Clayton State also shot very well, making 33 of 66 shots from the floor (50 percent), 10 of 12 free throws (83 percent), and seven of 14 from behind the arc (50 percent).
The Lakers had scored two baskets in a row to tie the game at 60 with 12:21 left in the game, the seventh tie of the second half.
But Lander exploded with an 8-0 run and would lead until the final minute. Johnson hit a 3-pointer, Kaylyn Small made one of two free throws, Nardia Robbins converted a three-point play, and Robbins made another free throw for a 68-60 lead at the 9:09 mark.
And after Kayla Mobley hit two free throws and Woodard made a 3-pointer to pull the Lakers within 68-65, Johnson answered with a trey of her own to push the Lady Bearcat lead back to six, 71-65, with 7:43 to go. Mukia Myrick made one of two free throws to up the lead to seven at the 6:13 mark.
With 5:33 to go, Lander increased its lead to nine when McKever rebounded Judge's missed 3-pointer, was fouled and hit two free throws to make it 74-65. After Tillman made a layup for Clayton State, Johnson found McKever under the basket for a layup and a 76-67 lead with 5:19 left.
Tillman made a short jumper for the Lakers, but Judge gave Lander its first double-digit lead of the second half with a long 3-pointer to make it 79-69 at the four-minute mark.
Then it was Clayton State's turn to throw a punch, and it was a crucial blow. Tillman and Fort made layups on consecutive possessions, then Tillman stole the ball, made a layup, was fouled, and converted the three-point play to pull the Lakers within 79-76 with 2:54 to go.
After Lander's Johnson missed a 3-pointer, Hall made her fourth trey of the game from the corner to tie the game at 79 with 2:05 left.
Lander failed to score after winding the shot clock down and missing a shot. But McKever blocked Fort's shot at the other end of the court, and then Fort missed again with McKever grabbing the defensive rebound. Seconds later, Johnson was fouled and made one of two free throws to give Lander an 80-79 lead with 1:08 left.
Hall gave Clayton its first lead in several minutes, 81-80, on a jumper with under a minute to go. Lander's Myrick hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 81 with 36 seconds left.
Clayton State worked the clock and got the ball inside to Tillman, but she missed a shot with around 12 seconds left. Lander's Butler tried to secure the defensive rebound giving the visitors some hope of winning at the end of regulation. However, she lost the ball out of bounds with seven seconds to go.
Latonda Bruce lobbed an inbounds pass in the lane to Woodard, who tapped the ball in with 5.7 seconds left for the go-ahead points. The Lady Bearcats tried to score quickly but overthrew McKever as time expired.
The Lady Bearcats used a 33-16 run to build a 37-24 lead with 4:55 left in the first half. After Clayton State took an 8-4 lead with 17:45 left on Hall's first 3-pointer of the night, McKever scored twice in a row to start the run and Judge hit a 3-pointer to give the Lady Bearcats an 11-10 lead at the 15:49 mark.
Brianna Webb hit a 3-pointer to give Lander a 17-12 lead and Robbins made a trey, pushing the Lady Bearcat advantage to 22-14 at the halfway point of the first half.
Woodard hit a 3-pointer to pull the Lakers within 22-17 and Jackson's three-point play cut it to 26-24 at the 6:39 mark.
But Lander exploded with 11 unanswered points to take its largest lead of the game at 37-24 lead. McKever opened the run with an old-fashioned three-point play, Johnson's steal led to Myrick's 3-pointer, Judge nailed her second trey of the night, and McKever ended the run with another basket in the paint.
But Clayton State stormed back, outscoring the Lady Bearcats 17-4 over the final five minutes of the half. Tillman scored twice and Jackson made three free throws to cut the Laker deficit to 37-31 at the 3:26 mark.
After Butler made a basket and two free throws on separate possessions to push Lander's lead back to 41-31, the hosts scored the final 10 points of the half. Fort made a layup to start the 10-0 run, Hall nailed a 3-pointer, Griggs made a layup, and Woodard hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left to tie the game at 41 heading into the break.
Hall's third 3-pointer in as many tries gave Clayton State a 44-41 lead in the first minute of the second half, giving the home team 13 unanswered points dating back to the first half.
But Lander responded with Judge's game-tying 3-pointer and Butler's go-ahead layup to make it 46-44. The game would be tied at 46, 50 and 52.
Judge's fourth 3-pointer in six tries gave the Lady Bearcats a 55-52 at the 15-minute mark. With the game tied at 56, McKever's made her ninth field goal in 12 attempts and Lyons scored inside to give Lander a 60-56 lead with 13:11 to go, but the action was just beginning.