Albany State’s Justin Wilcox, right, puts up a shot over the Clark Atlanta defense during Thursday’s home game. ASU won. (email@example.com)
ALBANY — Jaren Harris pulled up and hit another three with head coach Chris Cameron in his ear yelling “Stop.”
“Mercy” would have also been appropriate.
Harris scored 18 to the lead the Rams on Thursday to a 92-56 whipping of Clark Atlanta and extended the ASU win streak to five games.
Even when Harris connected on his fourth trey of the game, the rout had been on for some time. Then came Eric Martin’s windmill dunk on the next possession and the craziness in HPER Gym reached Category 5.
“Coach told us before the game just to have fun and be loose,” Harris said. “That’s what’s helping us these last five games.”
All of a sudden the Rams are back in the chase in the East division after this recent hot streak where everything has come together.
“The guys are really starting to understand what we’ve been requiring of them,” Cameron said. “They’re taking ownership of their season.”
ASU (6-11, 4-6) had jumped out to a 19-2 lead and never relented. James Lodman Jr.’s 3-pointer with 3:16 left in the first half made it 39-12 and the Rams took a 42-16 lead into the half.
“This is the first time just kicking somebody’s butt the whole game,” Harris said.
Andrew Covin added 16 points in the win, including four 3s of his own. The Rams hit 13 for the game on 28 tries. ASU has shot overin 50 percent from three the last five games. Clark Atlanta (2-14, 1-7) was led by Jerrell Joye’s 20 points.
ASU faces Fort Valley Saturday at home.
“Obviously it’s a big game and Fort Valley is a rival,” Cameron said. “We just want to keep the momentum going and play like we’re capable of playing.”
CLARK ATLANTA WOMEN 66, ASU WOMEN 63: In and out.
That’s about like Albany State’s season has gone so far.
Lady Rams sophomore Mecca Frost missed on one of three free throws in the final 15 seconds Thursday and Clark Atlanta escaped with a 66-63 win in conference play.
But Frost’s miss was oh, so close.
Trailing 64-61, Frost launched a three that was off the mark with four seconds to play, but she was knocked to the ground on the follow through and had three shots from the line to tie it. The first and last were true, but the second went around the cylinder and refused to go down.
“It went in and rolled out,” said Frost, who got ASU back into the game late with a driving layup and two earlier free throws. “That was a tough loss, but we’ll be ready to bounce back.”
The Lady Panthers clung to a 64-63 lead after the Lady Rams’ free throws and Conisha Hicks connected on two foul shots of her own to ice the game. The Lady Rams couldn’t get off a final shot in the last three seconds.
It was a bitter end to a game ASU (7-11, 5-5) had in hand at the half before a distastrous opening seven minutes in the second half.
Clark Atlanta (10-9, 6-3 conference) used a 20-3 run to open after halftime and turned a deficit into a 49-40 lead on La’Quisha Lewis’ jumper with 13:56 to play. After that run to ruin a solid first half, a missed free throw was the least of ASU’s worries.
“(Frost’s free throw miss) went in and came back out, but you didn’t have to put yourself in that situation,” Lady Rams head coach Robert Skinner said. “We had a 10-point lead and we squandered that. Closing the game is everything and it’s over halfway into the season. When are you going to figure it out?”
Albany State opened up a 35-25 lead in the first half thanks to 10 points from sophomore sensation April Thomas in a 4:34 span. Thomas finished with 17 in the first half, including three 3-pointers. The Lady Rams hit six threes as a team in the first.
Tied 23-23 after Clark Atlanta’s La’Quisha Lewis hit a jumper with 5:22 left in the opening half, Thomas hit four consecutive shots with Kadesha Matthews’ putback sandwiched in between to open up a Lady Rams’ 35-29 lead at the break.
Thomas led all scorers with 25 points, hitting 4 of 12 3-pointers. No other Lady Ram finished in double figures. ASU shot 20 percent lower in the second half (24 percent) than it did in the first.
CAU got 22 points from Hicks and 21 points and 11 boards from Erika Sumpter. Sumpter, who added three blocks, caused trouble inside the block along with Lewis. Lewis had 10 boards and three blocks in the win. Former Darton State College star and current Lady Panther Jomanda Smalls had two points and two rebounds in 10 minutes of action.
Albany State returns home Saturday to take on Fort Valley State in conference play before playing conference leader Benedict College on Thursday at HPER.