Albany State guard Darshtyn Baker dribbles up the court in the first half of Wednesday's non-conference game against Carver College. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — After a handful of close, hard-fought games against Division II opponents to open the season, Wednesday’s matchup against NCCAA foe Carver College should have been a breather for the Albany State Rams.
Instead, it turned into another battle.
And then it turned into a loss that left ASU coach Chris Cameron shaking his head.
Albany State blew a 15-point lead with 10 minutes left and watched as Carver’s Derek Douglas hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds left as the Cougars stunned the Rams at HPER Gymnasium, 85-82.
“It wasn’t,” Cameron said after the game when told it wasn’t a game his Rams were supposed to lose. “But we got exactly what we deserved. We didn’t come out ready to play, and there is no room for that. There is no room for that in the game of basketball. If you don’t come out and get ready to play, things like this happen.”
The Rams pounded Carver, which plays at the National Christian College Athletic Association level, by 25 points last season and looked poised to deal the Cougars another big loss on Wednesday.
Carver, however, had other ideas.
The Cougars (4-12) used a 15-2 scoring run late in the second half to get back into the game and then outscored ASU (2-4) 7-1 in the final minute to complete the upset.
Albany State’s Jamorris Gaines, a former Worth County and Albany Tech star, missed a 3-pointer in the corner with three seconds left and Erin Martin missed a putback that would have tied the game — sending the Rams to one of their most frustrating losses in years.
“This one hurts,” Gaines said. “I think some of us just underestimated them. They came out ready to play, and we didn’t.”
Gaines, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, was one of five Rams to score in double figures. Larry Bullock led ASU with 16 points, followed by Joe Williams with 13, Darshtyn Baker with 10 and James Lodman with 10.
In front of a packed crowd filled with students back from Thanksgiving break, the Rams ran out to an early 10-1 lead, preventing Carver from scoring for the first 3:37 of the game.
ASU kept its lead until Carver’s Zakiyy Tabb knocked down a free throw with 1:19 left in the first half to give the Cougars a 29-28 lead. The Rams, however, responded with a 5-0 run to close the half and then used a 21-6 scoring run midway through the second half to jump out to a 15-point lead.
Most of HPER gym had thought the Rams had finally put the game away.
“So did I,” Cameron said. “But we didn’t execute down the stretch. And then their press hurt us a little bit, too.”
The Rams turned the ball over 24 times, and several of the giveaways came late in the game.
The loss was part of a stretch of four straight games at home for the Rams, who play again Friday against Auburn University-Montgomery.
And Gaines and the Rams don’t plan on letting another winnable game slip through their fingers.
“We just have to come in and work hard and quit all the playing at practice,” Gaines said. “We have to get it all together.”