With a team defensive effort, Augusta State finally made coach Gary Tuell smile this season.
The Jaguars held Clayton State to 34 percent shooting and defeated the Lakers 65-54 in their conference opener at the ASU Athletic Complex on Wednesday night.
In earlier action, the Lady Jaguars knocked off the Lady Lakers 81-64.
"I was happy," Tuell said. "I thought our guys really competed and played hard. For the first time in a long time, I was happy with them."
With the Jaguars (6-3, 1-0) leading 19-16 in the first half, Marcus Gradney got the hot hand. The junior forward made three straight 3-pointers during an 18-8 run as Augusta State went into halftime with a 37-24 lead.
Jayme Johnson capped a 9-0 run in the second half with a layup and 3-pointer as the Jaguars stormed to a 48-29 lead with 13:08 remaining.
But Clayton State's full-court press finally caught up to the Jaguars. The Lakers forced six turnovers in a 4:53 span and pulled within 48-43 with 8:31 remaining.
T.J. Ott, though, sealed the win with a pair of layups that gave Augusta State a 58-47 lead with 2:03 left in the game.
"We just kept our composure," Gradney said. "They were trying to put us in their game, and we were beating them playing our game."
Gradney led the team with 18 points, while Festus Hawkins added 16 points and 10 rebounds.
In the women's contest, Sabrina Jones provided a spark off the bench, scoring a game-high 18 points, along with five rebounds and two blocks to help lead the Lady Jaguars (7-3, 1-0) to the win. However, the sophomore forward sprained her right ankle with 7:01 remaining and she is not expected to play the next two games.
"Sabrina's game is so up-tempo," Lady Jaguars coach Greg Wilson said. "When we're running, Sabrina's phenomenal. I thought this was her best game in a blue-and-white uniform."
Holding a six-point halftime lead, Augusta State's defense clamped down as the Lady Jaguars went on a 17-6 run in the first 6:42 of the half and took a 59-42 lead. For the game, Augusta State had 16 steals and forced 24 turnovers.
"I thought we overwhelmed them a little bit with our athleticism," Wilson said. "We smelled blood from the very beginning."
Sharon Taylor scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Donna Hanson went 4-of-4 from three-point range for 12 points. Freshman Ernesia Wideman, who got her first collegiate start at point guard with senior Amy Frantz nursing an ankle injury, scored five points and had two steals.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.
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