Augusta State guard Daniel Dixon compared his team's game tonight against Clayton State with the Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali rivalry.
"It's like a boxing match," Dixon said. "It's a big one. Every time we play them, they're giving us their best shot and we're giving them our best shot."
When the 11th-ranked Jaguars face the Lakers at 7:30 p.m. at Christenberry Fieldhouse, the contest will mark their ninth meeting in three seasons.
Dixon, along with center Garret Siler, said the contest will be a physical one.
"They could be 8-0 in the conference or 0-8, they will give us a war every single time," Siler said. "I know I've got to strap it up and go hard, because it's going to be a battle."
Augusta State will be seeking revenge for its worst loss of the year, a 65-55 defeat at Clayton State in January. Since then, the Lakers (12-8) have lost eight of 11.
Augusta State is trying to keep pace in the Peach Belt Conference. The Jaguars trail co-leaders Georgia College and State and USC Aiken by one game with seven remaining.
The Jaguars, looking to host the regional for the third consecutive year, are second in the Southeast Region behind Georgia College and State.
"One thing we learned last year was to keep winning and everything works itself out," Augusta State coach Dip Metress said.
With the season winding down, Augusta State is 16-4 -- the same record it had at this point last season. The team has successfully filled the voids of two-time All-American forward Tyrekus "A.J." Bowman and guard Demetrius Howard. Last season, Bowman shot 53 percent from the field, averaging 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, along with 48 steals and 42 blocks. Howard averaged 8.2 points a game and was the team's second-leading 3-point shooter.
Junior guard Ben Madgen has stepped up his game and is leading the conference with a 19.7 scoring average. Siler is averaging 16 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, along with 52 blocks.
Junior forwards Greg Hire and Fred Brathwaite have also helped replace Bowman and Howard in their first year. Brathwaite is averaging 12.9 points and 5.9 boards a game, while Hire is averaging 5.9 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.
With their additions, the Jaguars are shooting better than last year, leading the conference from the field (51 percent).
"I think everyone feels comfortable now," Madgen said.
"Granted, we lost a couple of close games. But we're playing really good together. Greg and Fred coming in for us were great for the program.
"It was definitely big losses with Dee and A.J. But we've gelled together pretty well now."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.