Fast start lifts Jags past Savannah State

By Miguelangelo Hernandez 
Staff Writer - Augusta Chronicle

For one half, Augusta State played solid, fundamental basketball. Fortunately for the Jaguars, they made that half count.

Behind a 25-4 run during the last nine minutes of the first half, the Jaguars took a 23-point lead over Savannah State into the break and cruised to an 87-67 win Saturday at the ASU Athletic

``We played a strong first half,'' said Jaguars coach Gary Tuell, whose team improved to 5-2. ``The second half wasn't so great. We quit playing smart, and Savannah State is a scrappy team that didn't give up. But, its a `W' and we won by 20.''

Augusta State did no wrong in the first half. The Jaguars shot 48 percent from the field while holding the Tigers to 7-for-23 shooting.

T.J. Ott recorded a double-double by halftime, scoring 12 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Ott finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

``He had a good night on the boards,'' Tuell said. ``I saw him when he was in high school when he was scoring 30 and 40 points and he was crashing the boards then. I'm just sorry it took him two years to get motivated.''

Festus Hawkins, the Jaguars' 6-foot-11 senior center, finished with a game-high 26 points while pulling down 12 rebounds.

In contrast to the first half, the teams switched identities as Savannah State hit 8 of 10 3-pointers en route to 63 percent shooting performance in the second half. Augusta State shot only 40 percent, but its 20-plus point lead never was challenged.

Battling to stay in the game, Savannah State's Alvin Payton and Toyian Williams led the second-half march, as the two finished 7-for-11 in 3s. Williams had 23 points, and Payton had 18.

``They are a streaky shooting team,'' Tuell said. ``Payton is really good and so is Williams. As a team, they have some good shooters.''

The Tigers started their streaky shooting two minutes in the second half, as Williams hit two 3s while Williams and Maurice Bell added jumpers to pull Savannah State to within 17 at 48-31.

Hawkins quickly answered the Tigers' challenge with two layups in less than a minute. Marcus Gradney's 3-pointer at 13:26 restored the Jaguars 25-point lead, 56-31.

The game was a physical battle, as the teams combined for 46 fouls and 55 free throws. The Jaguars, behind Hawkins and Ott, outrebound Savannah State 47-29 .

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