AIKEN, S.C. --- D'Von Moore hit a tiebreaking three-pointer with 37.5 seconds remaining as Clayton State University rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to defeat Tusculum University 77-73 in the South Atlantic Conference/Peach Belt Conference Challenge at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon.
Aubrey McRae scored 17 of his game-high 23 points in the second half for the Lakers (1-1), who shot 8-for-12 from three-point range in the second half to erase a 37-28 halftime lead by the Pioneers. Moore, who did not play in the first half, and Jacarl Owens each had 12 points for Clayton State, which put five players in double figures in the victory.
Tariq Jenkins had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Donovan Donaldson added 14 points and a career-best 10 rebounds for the Pioneers (0-2), who gave up the first 13 points of the second half to the Lakers but came back with an 18-6 run of their own to go ahead 55-47 with 10:43 left. However, Moore would hit a total of three go-ahead three-pointers in the final six minutes to help Clayton State complete the rally.
Tusculum grabbed an early 6-3 lead on consecutive buckets by Caleb Hodnett, the latter a three-pointer, but Clayton State ran off nine straight points to go on top 12-6 on a three-pointer by Justin Tuckson with 15:51 to go in the half. The Pioneers were able to knot the score at 25-25 on a Donaldson three-pointer with 7:26 left in the first half, and a three by Dillon Smith pushed Tusculum back ahead 28-27 with 5:42 to play.
A foul shot by Gabriel Joseph-Bryan would lift Clayton State into a 28-28 tie with 4:31 left in the half, but that would be the last point of the half for the Lakers as Tusculum closed on a 9-0 run. Trenton Gibson score five points during the surge for the Pioneers, while the Lakers missed their final 11 shots over the final nine minutes of the half.
McRae scored the first five points of the second half for the Lakers, followed by back-to-back three-pointer from Christoff Naim that gave the Lakers a 41-37 lead with 16:13 to go. A three-point play by Jenkins stopped the Clayton State run, and sparked a Tusculum surge that saw Jenkins and Donaldson account for 11 straight points for the Pioneers, the final two on a putback by Donaldson that restored the Tusculum lead at 48-47 with 13:11 remaining.
The run would be extended to 55-47 on a three-pointer by the Pioneers' Myles Jones, a layup by Smith and a jumper by Malik Tyree, the latter coming with 10:43 left. However, McRae hit a three-pointer on the Lakers' next possession and added a jumper with 9:47 to go, but two free throws followed by a layup from the Pioneers' Cam King made it a 59-52 Tusculum edge with 8:46 left.
The King basket would be followed by a three-minute scoring drought by the Pioneers, during which the Lakers tied the game at 59 on a layup by Tuckson with 6:50 left. Gibson hit a pair of foul shots with 5:47 left for a 61-59 Tusculum lead, but Moore countered with a three-pointer to put Clayton State back ahead 62-61 with 5:30 remaining. Another free throw by Gibson tied the game 62-62, but Moore responded yet again from deep as the Lakers went ahead 67-62 with just over four minutes remaining.
The Pioneers were able to cut the deficit to 68-66 with 2:40 left on two free throws by Gibson, but Moore drilled yet another three as Clayton State went ahead 71-66 with 2:25 left. Jenkins countered with a three of his own with 2:02 left to make it a 71-69 game, and after two missed free throws by the Lakers it was Hodnett who delivered the tying basket with 1:36 left.
Owens gave Clayton State a 73-71 lead on a third-chance basket with 1:10 remaining, but Donaldson drilled a pair of foul shots with 59.5 seconds to play to even the score at 73-73. Moore's fourth three-pointer gave Clayton State the lead for good at 76-73 with 37.5 seconds to go, and Donaldson's bid for the tie was off target with 14 seconds to play. McRae iced the game with a free throw with 10.5 seconds to go for the Lakers.
Tusculum shot 44.6 percent (25-for-56) from the field in the game, and hit 5-for-19 from three-point range. The Pioneers connected on 18 free throws in 32 attempts (56.3 percent), led by Gibson who went 8-for-9 from the line en route to 12 points along with four rebounds and a team-high four assists.
King had nine points and three blocked shots in 14 minutes off the Tusculum bench, while Hodnett was 3-for-4 from the field for nine points. Smith finished the afternoon with seven points and five rebounds, and Jones added five points in 14 minutes in a reserve role.
Clayton State shot 39.1 percent (25-for-64) from the field, and went 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) on three-pointers as Moore was 4-for-7 and Naim 3-for-6 from long range. Owens had 12 points and nine rebounds and Joseph-Bryan added nine boards for the Lakers, who were outrebounded 45-41 by the Pioneers.
The Lakers were just 16-for-31 (51.6 percent) at the foul line, with McRae hitting 12-for-15 from the stripe. Tuckson dished out a game-high seven assists for Clayton State and had 10 points to join McRae, Moore, Owens and Naim in double figures.
Tusculum will be back on the road to face their third straight Peach Belt Conference opponent on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Lander.