MORROW, Ga. – Carson-Newman (2-5) got a double-double from junior forward Josh Rogers (Bristol, United Kingdom) but the Eagles dropped a 62-58 decision in overtime to Clayton State (6-1), Tuesday night at the Athletic and Fitness Center.
Rogers had a career high 16 points and a career high 13 rebounds for his second career double-double.
Ultimately, it was a slew of second half defensive breakdowns that made the difference in the game, according to head coach Chuck Benson.
"It was a tale of two halves," Benson said. "First half we defended marvelously, even though we weren't hitting our shots. Second half they started heave-hoing shots with reckless abandon and we didn't do a good job defending. There wasn't one thing in particular, but we had some breakdowns late that gave, and I do mean gave, Clayton State the win."
The Eagles took a 22-16 lead into the locker room after holding Clayton State without a field goal over the final 9:29 of the half. The Eagles did that without Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.), Jared Johnson (Springfield, Mass.), Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.), who all were in foul trouble.
However, the Lakers quickly got hot from behind the arc in the second half and took the lead on an 8-0 run with seven minutes left thanks to a pair of triples from Saiquan Terry and Dantez Bennamon layup.
Clayton State connected on 7-of-13 second half three pointers. The Lakers had just 14 points in the paint for the game, and 12 of their 19 made field goals were from beyond the arc.
"It's a good learning experience," Benson said. "This is a tough place to play against a Peach Belt opponent who's having a great season thus far. I think we can grow from this."
The Eagles started to make a push with 73 seconds left in regulation and the Lakers up 49-47. Johnson hit a runner from the middle of the lane to tie the game at 49 before Clayton State's Jamil McKee gave the Lakers the lead again with 43 seconds left on a swooping layup from the left side of the lane.
That set the stage for C-N's late game dramatics. Ryan Jones (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) had C-N's initial chance to tie at the end of regulation, but his layup from the left baseline clanked off the right side of the iron. Brooks came out of a rugby scrum on the right block with the board and double-fisted the game-tying bucket off the window. A last-second Bennamon three banged off the front iron and the game headed to OT.
The Eagles were poised to take the lead on numerous occasions, however, two defensive breakdowns allowed Clayton State to take two-possession leads late.
One, Johnson sagged off of Terry on the left wing, allowing the Laker sharpshooter to burry a 28-foot three and give the Lakers a 57-53 lead with 2:43 left in the overtime period.
Two, after the Eagles had trimmed the deficit to one on a Brooks layup with 96 seconds left, Clayton State had the ball for what would be, potentially, the second to last meaningful possession of the game. A defensive breakdown left Bennamon open in the right corner, and the freshman buried a trey to push the lead back to four with 15 seconds to play.
A Clark bucket and two Laker free throws set the final margin.
Even with the late breakdowns, Benson was proud of the steps the Eagles made.
"Three straight games now our turnovers have been down," Benson said. "Now we still had turnovers in key situations like on a 3-on-1 fast break. That's kind of mind-numbing. Defensively, we hold them to 62 points on their own court. But offensively, we were just bad tonight. It wasn't typical."
Aside from Rogers' double-double, the Eagles got 14 points from Johnson and 12 apiece from Brooks and Clark. All of Johnson's points came in the second half.
Bennamon led the Lakers with 17 points. Terry had 15 and was 5-for-14 from beyond the arc.
The Eagles stay on the road Saturday with a trek to Goodman Gym to face off with Catawba. Tipoff with the Indians is set for 4 p.m. with pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starting at 3:45 p.m. with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.