With much of its focus on a beefed-up road schedule, Augusta State is back in its comfort zone.
After playing in five states the past two months. the 12th-ranked Jaguars (6-3) return to Christenberry Fieldhouse for a Peach Belt showdown with Clayton State at 7:30 tonight.
Augusta State, which traveled to Richmond, Va., and Tampa, Fla., since its last home game, played in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina as well.
"I feel like the circus has finally stopped," Augusta State coach Dip Metress said.
The circus may begin again tonight when the Jaguars take on their main rival from last season. In 2006-07, Augusta State defeated Clayton State in the first-ever top-25 matchup in Christenberry Fieldhouse. The Lakers later snapped the Jaguars' 14-game winning streak with a two-point win before edging Augusta State by three in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament semifinals.
Metress knows his players won't need extra motivation. "This is one we don't have to worry about," he said.
Clayton State (5-5, 1-2) isn't as strong as last season when it finished 24-7, losing to Virginia Union in the second round of the Division II Tournament. The Lakers have struggled on offense, but rank second in field-goal percentage defense and second in rebounding margin.
"They've got a good team," Metress said. "They're obviously fighting for survival in the Peach Belt."
Augusta State is seeking to get back on track after an 89-75 loss at Tampa. Senior forward Tyrekus Bowman had 32 points and 15 rebounds in the game but he and junior center Garret Siler were saddled with foul trouble.
The loss will not won't hurt the Jaguars at the end of the season, because it came out of region.
Metress said his team has much to be proud about after its tough early-season stretch. Augusta State notched two key nonconference region wins and their lone Division II losses came to No. 13 USC Aiken and a Tampa squad that will likely be ranked before long.
One concern as Augusta State returns to Peach Belt play is bench production. Four starters represent 76 percent of the team's offense.
In the Jaguars' three defeats, the bench scored 24 total points -- 13 coming from sixth man Demetrius Howard.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.