MILLEDGEVILLE – John Carrick isn’t known for shoveling sweet nothings and smothering his team with compliments.
But the veteran Georgia College and State women’s basketball coach is pulling back on his sharp tongue in hopes of keeping his team’s confidence level high.
“Coach Carrick has been telling them for some time, ‘this team is good,’ ” he said, ‘that ‘we can win this whole thing,’ but then you get emotional this and emotional that and you don’t come out and play, and things go sour and you start to pout.”
None of that was remotely a problem as GCSU had everything clicking en route to a 78-53 win Monday night over No. 17 Clayton State in Peach Belt Conference women’s action.
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“We came into the game knowing we could beat them, knowing if we would bring it, we could,” sophomore guard Dominique Huffin said. “If we don’t fold under pressure, we can beat anybody.”
The Lady Bobcats were sturdy against the same Clayton State pressure that led to the Lakers’ 78-60 win Jan. 5.
“Their press got us a lot the first time,” Huffin said. “This time, we came into the pressure with confidence and broke it. That was the turning point.”
The Lady Bobcats improved to 9-5 overall and 4-3 in the Peach Belt. The Lakers dropped to 11-3 and 5-2.
GCSU visits Georgia Southwestern on Wednesday before returning home to face 18th-ranked USC Aiken on Saturday.
The Lady Bobcats lead the series with the Lakers, but Clayton State had won 11 of the past 12 meetings and seven straight.
Huffin and Emily Bixler led GCSU with 16 points each while guard Mandi Dudish added 13 on 4-of-7 3-point shooting.
Clayton State’s Marie St. Fort had 12, which couldn’t do much with GCSU’s 22 turnovers, thanks in part to a 43.9-percent night shooting.
“Confidence is a fragile thing,” Carrick said. “And we’ve got it. My job is to make sure we keep it.”
Clayton State went cold and sloppy and watched a 6-3 lead turn into a 13-6 deficit, the Lady Bobcats sparked by a Dudish 3-pointer. The lead then dropped from nine to five before GCSU got another 3 from Dudish and a bucket inside by Tammeisha Law, and suddenly the hosts were up by double figures, 33-23 with 2:45 left in the half.
After a rough first half from the line, GCSU found the touch and made 7-of-8 to start a run that led to a 64-44 lead with 8:40 left.
GCSU got a big spark early in the second half from Bixler, who scored six straight points. Then, Dudish put the Lady Bobcats up by double figures for good with a 3-pointer at the 13:43 mark for a 48-37 margin.
The lead was never less than 15 for the final nine minutes as Clayton State had its second-worst scoring output of the season.
“We shared the basketball really well,” Huffin said. “We came prepared and we worked hard. I had confidence in this team. I knew we could do it. We actually finished it.”