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Bearcats pull away from Clayton State as Rucker scores career-high 21 points

Bearcats pull away from Clayton State as Rucker scores career-high 21 points

GREENWOOD – The Lander men's basketball team started the game with a 14-0 lead and opened the second half on an 18-4 run, beating Clayton State 95-76 in Peach Belt Conference action Monday afternoon at Horne Arena behind DeShundre Rucker's career-high 21 points.

The Bearcats improved to 6-11 overall and 5-6 in the Peach Belt with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day victory. Lander upped its home record this month to 3-1.

The Lakers fell to 5-10, 2-7.

The Bearcats avenged a 72-68 loss to Clayton State in Morrow, Ga., on Dec. 19.

"I really liked our energy on the defensive side," said assistant coach Ryan Hilburn. "In the first half, we didn't do a great job of rebounding when they missed shots, but we did cause 12 turnovers to start the game. I liked our energy, I liked our activity and I think that's kind of what got us going."

Rahu Purdie paced Lander with 22 points and five assists. Purdie made 16 of 18 free throws as the team hit 32 of 38 from the stripe (84 percent) in the game.

Rucker's 21 points passed his previous career high of 18 against Georgia Southwestern on Jan. 5. He paced the Bearcats with eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

Marquel Wiggins added 13 points for Lander, Elijah Alston scored 11 points, and Sidney Robinson and Jordan Dingle added nine points apiece.

Gabriel Joseph-Bryan led the Lakers with a double-double of 21 points and 11 boards. Kyle Kincey scored 14 points and Aubrey McRae added 10 points.

Lander came out hot, building the 14-0 lead in the game's first four-and-a-half minutes. Wiggins scored six of those points, including picking up a loose ball in the Lakers paint and driving for a thunderous dunk and two-touchdown lead at the 15:38 mark.

But Clayton State came back quickly, closing within 23-21 on Joseph-Bryan's three-point play with nine minutes left in the opening half.

Wiggins made a three-pointer from the top of the key to extend the Bearcat lead to 29-21 with 6:23 to go.

But the Lakers completed their comeback, pulling into ties at 31 and 33-all, and taking their first lead at 37-36 on Joseph-Bryan's bucket at the 3:05 mark.

Lander finished the half strong as Dingle completed a four-point play after being fouled on a made three-pointer, and TJ Knight swished a three from the left corner to help the hosts build a 46-41 halftime lead.

Lander's starters outscored Clayton State's starters 36-6 in the first half. The Bearcats led despite only eight rebounds in the first half.

Lander started the second half much like the first, outscoring the Lakers 18-4 for a 64-45 lead with 12:47 left. The Bearcats had balanced scoring during the run, with Alston making a three-pointer and Rucker adding a three-point play.

Alston's transition three-pointer off a Rucker blocked shot upped Lander's lead to 71-49 with 8:13 to go.

Purdie made four of four free throws due to a foul and technical foul, making it 75-52 with 7:29 left.

Rucker's dunk off a pass from Purdie gave Lander an 89-67 advantage with 2:09 to go.