This isn't how Buck Harris wanted to coach his first collegiate basketball game. But when Augusta State head coach Gary Tuell was forced to undergo an emergency appendectomy Friday night, Harris was pressed into service.
And the Jaguars gave him win No. 1.
Festus Hawkins scored a game-high 24 points with 11 rebounds, and Augusta State knocked off Columbus State 74-57 for a Peach Belt Conference win at the ASU Athletic Complex on Saturday.
"It's good to be in a position that when he steps out, he's got enough confidence in me to do the job for him," said Harris, a six-year Jaguar assistant coach. "When I saw him in the hospital, he said that he would not want anybody coaching the team rather than me."
In the women's game, No. 5 Columbus State's full-court press forced Augusta State to commit 39 turnovers as the Lady Cougars defeated the Lady Jaguars 101-56.
After practice Friday, Tuell wasn't feeling well and went to a local hospital. Doctors removed his appendix, and the Augusta State coach is supposed to leave the hospital today. However, he most likely will not coach the team at USC Spartanburg on Monday.
"Buck has good coaching experience from just being under coach Tuell," junior guard Jayme Johnson said. "We knew we had to play well because (Tuell's) still going to watch the film. The film doesn't lie. So you still have to play hard."
The Jaguars (7-3, 2-0 Peach Belt) showed patience on offense, and the team picked up 20 assists. Augusta State shot 46 percent from the floor and had the game in control for the final 30 minutes.
Augusta State trailed 14-13 in the first half until its Australian connection made a flurry of threes. Gary Boodnikoff, Russell Hinder and Chris Harriman all knocked down 3-pointers during an 11-0 run as the Jaguars jumped out to a 24-14 lead.
"We knew that we needed a little run and that we'd have them," said Hinder, who scored 13 points and added 10 boards. "Last game, we let Clayton State back in the game. Tonight, we were able to hold the lead."
Holding a 37-26 halftime lead, the Jaguars opened the second half with seven straight points. Columbus State (7-4, 1-1) shot 31 percent from the floor and closed the gap to 53-41 with 9:40 remaining.
Augusta's defense, though, kept the Cougars at bay from 3-point range (9-of-30). The Jaguars out-rebounded Columbus State 46-39, and they eventually built their second-half lead to 20.
Meanwhile, it was a homecoming of sorts for a pair of Lady Cougars. Former Laney star Kinesha Harden led Columbus State (11-0, 2-0) with a game-high 24 points, while former Josey star Kellie Holland added two.
While the Lady Jaguars (7-4, 1-1) kept giving the ball away, Augusta State didn't help its cause in the rebounding department. Augusta State was out-rebounded 52-34 and allowed 29 Cougar offensive boards.
"For me, we did kind of do what I wanted to do, and it didn't matter," Lady Jaguar coach Greg Wilson said. "When you stack your lineup with Division I athletes, that's the way it should've been. Until we get that kind of personnel, we can't compete with that."
Abby Boone hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to give Columbus State a 38-21 first-half lead. But Faith Nixon made four straight free throws during an 8-2 Lady Jaguar run as Augusta trimmed the lead to 11 with 2:16 left before halftime.
However, Harden scored four points as Columbus closed the half on an 11-0 run to take a 51-29 halftime lead. The Lady Cougars opened the second half with seven straight points and went up 58-29.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.