DAHLONEGA – The Columbus State men's basketball team won a thrilling 66-64 overtime victory at North Georgia Saturday evening in Memorial Hall. CSU improves to 5-6 on the season and 1-1 in the PBC while the Saints fall to 3-8 overall and remain winless (0-2) in conference play.
North Georgia got off to a quick start scoring the games first five points as the Cougars missed their first six shots in the opening three minutes of action. CSU would slowly trim into the lead as they knotted the game up at nine all when Bryant Thomas made a layup with just under 12 minutes remaining in the opening half. Both sides would alternate scoring possessions until the visitors scored four straight points capped off by a Paul Darkwa dunk that gave Columbus State their first lead of the game, 15-14 with 8:55 to go.
Neither team would have a lead larger than four points the remaining of the half as the game was tied on four separate occasions. Darius Mcknight broke the final tie of the first half making a layup with 51 seconds remaining, giving CSU a 29-27 advantage heading into the break.
The second half started much like the beginning of the game as the Saints scored the first six points of the final 20 minutes of action to take a 33-29 lead with 17:23 remaining on the contest. Each team would make a jump shot before Columbus State scored six straight points going ahead 37-35 with 12:11 left.
Again, both squads went back and forth at each other and Clarence Thomas hit a pair of free throws at the 7:30 mark to tie the game at 44-44. CSU would outscore North Georgia 10-5 in over the next two minutes and forty-eight seconds taking a five point lead, their largest of the contest. Columbus State was unable to secure the game over the final five minutes of regulation as they committed two turnovers, missed a pair of free throws and jump shots. Robby Goldsmith made two pressured free throws tying the game at 58-58 and sending it into overtime.
The overtime period started with Mcknight hitting a pair of free throws for a 60-58 CSU lead with 4:09 remaining. The Saints went 2-for-4 and Columbus State went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe cutting the lead to 61-60 at the 3:17 mark. Chaun Tinney gave North Georgia their first lead since the 10:55 mark in the second half. Each team went 1-for-2 from the free throw line on their next possession keeping the hosts with a one point lead (63-62) with 2:15 remaining. After a couple of empty offensive possessions, Lamar Williams knocked down a huge three-pointer for the Cougars, giving them a 65-63 edge with 1:16 to go.
Elijah Smith had a chance to tie the game again with four seconds left but only made one of his two free throw attempts making it a 65-64 contest. Donta Ridley grabbed the rebound and also just made 1-of-2 at the line with two seconds in the game. A desperation three-pointer as the clock expired missed as the Cougars pulled out the thrilling victory.
Mcknight led the way for CSU scoring a game high 20 points and grabbing a game high 12 rebounds. Darkwa and Williams also hit double figures, scoring 11 and 10 points respectively. As a team, they shot just 39% from the field and 51.7% (15-for-29) from the free throw line but held North Georgia to an even worse 34.5% (19-for-55) from the floor.
Carl Taylor and Tillman each had a team high 13 points leading a quarter of Saints in double figures. Tillman also registered 10 rebounds for a double-double. North Georgia shot a dismal 60% (24-for-40) from the free throw line. They out-rebounded CSU by one, 46-45.
There was a combined 43 fouls committed in the contest.
Columbus State returns to the court when it travels to Clayton State for a Peach Belt Conference contest. The Lakers will enter the game with an 11-3 record and are 8-1 at home this season. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.