Twenty minutes after defeating Columbus State, five Augusta State players – all underclassmen – returned to the court to put up extra shots.
Even a 63-55 win over the Cougars on Monday night at Christenberry Fieldhouse didn’t leave the Jaguars satisfied.
“I’m pleased that we won,” Augusta State coach Dip Metress said. “But we weren’t mentally ready to play. Hopefully, that’s a lesson we learned tonight.”
The Jaguars won for the sixth time in their past seven games, improving to 11-7 overall, 7-3 in the Peach Belt Conference. Augusta State, which plays host Wednesday night to UNC Pembroke, remained within 1½ games of East Division leader USC Aiken and within a half-game of the Braves.
“Everybody’s coming prepared. Everybody’s putting up extra shots after practice,” freshman forward Devon Wright-Nelson said of his team’s recent surge. “Everybody’s just coming hard. Everybody has the same mindset, and that’s winning.”
Though his team shot 48 percent from the field and recorded 15 assists on 20 field goals against Columbus State, Metress said his players made some poor
decisions on offense because
of mental fatigue. Augusta State was playing its fifth game in 10 days.
Wright-Nelson posted 17 points and eight rebounds to lead the Jaguars. Freshman guard Devonte Thomas added 15 points. Leading scorer Harold Doby had an adventurous night at the foul line (6 of 14) and finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Augusta State got off to a fast start and led 29-20 at intermission.
The Jaguars pushed their lead into double digits four times in the second half but couldn’t put away the Cougars (9-8, 4-4).
Paul Darkwa, who led Columbus State with 17 points and 11 rebounds, trimmed the margin to 37-36 with two free throws. Travis Keels responded with a jumper in the lane. Thomas followed with a three-point play and later drained a 3-pointer, pushing the lead back to nine.
“We have to learn to put teams away,” Thomas said. “At the same time, we have to stay focused and play defense.”
The Cougars were held to 35 percent shooting from the field and became the third consecutive Augusta State opponent to score in the 50s.