Jaguars focus on top team in North

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Augusta State coach Dip Metress said Friday he keeps hearing people around his program mentioning "the C-word."

That would be Clayton State, the former No. 2 team in the nation, and the Jaguars' chief rival in the Peach Belt Conference South Division. The problem for Metress is Augusta State doesn't play the No. 6-ranked Lakers until Wednesday night at home.

The No. 21-ranked Jaguars play host to North Division-leading Lander at 4 p.m. today at Christenberry Fieldhouse. Metress said he doesn't believe his team will be looking ahead to Clayton State.

"They shouldn't," he said about his team. "(Lander) is in first place in their half of the league. They're still in the mix for the overall record of the league."

Augusta State leads the conference with a 17-3 overall record and 9-0 league mark. The Jaguars have won nine in a row and are undefeated at home this season.

With seven games remaining, Augusta State is two games ahead of Lander and Clayton State for the league's regular-season championship. The Jaguars and Lakers have pulled free from the remaining four teams in the South Division.

The Bearcats (13-7, 7-2) sit atop the North Division and lead USC Upstate by two games. Lander owns the conference's second-longest active winning streak (four) behind only Augusta State.

Lander will try to beat Augusta State with its perimeter game - 40 percent of the team's offense comes from 3-pointers. Senior guard Jarred Jeffries is seventh in the conference scoring with 15.5 points a game and third in 3-point field goals made per game (2.45).

Augusta State will counter with the league's top scoring offense at 80.5 points a game. Junior forward Tyrekus Bowman leads the Peach Belt in scoring (20.4) and is fourth in rebounding (8.0).

Metress might not have to worry about Bowman or any of his players looking ahead. Instead, the Jaguars could be playing with a chip on their shoulder.

In the latest South Atlantic Region rankings, Augusta State checked in at third. It was somewhat disappointing for the Jaguars because the No. 2 team, Virginia Union of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, lost twice the week before.

When the poll was released earlier in the week, Virginia Union had a 10-3 record against Division II opponents and an 8-3 mark against region foes. Augusta State is now 17-3 against Division II opponents with a 12-2 region mark.

"I'm baffled," Metress said. "I don't know what the criteria is. I'm just baffled. Like I told our guys, let's just win games and leave all that stuff up to the computers. It's like the BCS. You really can't explain it."

Clayton State continues to lead the South Atlantic Region and is followed by Virginia Union, Augusta State and Virginia State. The Jaguars notched a quality win over the region's No. 6 team, Armstrong Atlantic State, Wednesday night, while Clayton State lost.

"We're in a pretty good league," Metress said. "We're undefeated in our league. I think that should mean something. Hopefully, it will toward the end."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

TODAY'S MEN'S GAME


WHO: Lander (13-7, 7-2 Big South Conference) at No. 21 Augusta State (17-3, 9-0)


WHEN: 4 p.m.


WHERE: Christenberry Fieldhouse


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