MORROW, Ga. – In its final exhibition game of the 2012-13 season on Friday night, the visiting Southern Polytechnic State University women’s basketball team dropped a 78-68 decision to the Clayton State University Lady Lakers at CSU’s Athletics & Fitness Center. Clayton State, the preseason favorite to win the Peach Belt Conference, has qualified for the NCAA Division II national tournament the past eight years.
“We appeared timid the first 20 minutes while committing 21 turnovers as well,” Southern Polytechnic head coach Laquanda Dawkins said. “We fumbled and carelessly mishandled the ball.
“We wanted to control the tempo of the game from the jump yet it didn't happen until under 10 minutes to go in the second half. The team decided to play – becoming the aggressor – down 20 points at the time.
” Southern Poly led 6-4 with 15:08 left in the opening half before Clayton State went on a 28-8 run, taking a 32-14 advantage. The Lady Lakers were up 38-23 at halftime and established their largest lead at 67-45 with 10:20 remaining. Over a seven-minute span, the Hornets outscored CSU 23-5 to pull within four points, 72-68, with 2:17 to go. The hosts answered, however, by scoring the game’s final six points.
“Tonight’s game was another great experience for our ladies and it is my hope we live and learn from our good and bad plays,” Dawkins said. “The season is still young and we will continue to teach to get better.”
SPSU ended 19-of-50 (38.0 percent) from the field and 26-of-36 (72.2 percent) from the free throw line, compared to 28-of-75 (37.3 percent) and 14-of-25 (56.0 percent), respectively, for Clayton State. Southern Poly had a 53-34 advantage in rebounds but finished with 33 turnovers to the Lady Lakers’ 24.
"We are grinding, learning and growing,” Dawkins said. “We only have one way to go and that's up.”
Junior guard Sarah Ogoke paced the Hornets with game highs of 18 points and 16 rebounds, plus added three steals while senior guard Ashlie Billingslea produced 16 points, a game-best six assists and three steals. Erica Turner, a junior forward, contributed 16 points and eight boards.
SPSU is 1-0 overall while CSU opens its regular season next Friday. Southern Poly hosts the Reinhardt University Lady Eagles in a non-conference contest on Tuesday at 6 p.m. inside the Hornets Nest. The Reinhardt-SPSU men’s game follows at 8 p.m. as a part of a doubleheader.