JR Washington scored 20 points to move into fourth place on Lander's all-time career scoring list but the Bearcats could not complete a rally, falling to Peach Belt Conference rival Clayton State University 89-80 Wednesday night at Horne Arena.
Lander fell to 3-9 overall, 0-3 in the Peach Belt. The Lakers improved to 7-5, 2-1.
The Bearcats rallied from a 12-point deficit to tie at 62 with 8:11 left but never took the lead.
Washington passed Alonzo Harrison, taking over fourth place with 1,516 career points. The senior guard has now scored at least 11 points in his last 48 games.
Rahu Purdie scored 16 points, sparking Lander's comeback attempt in the second half. Jordan Dingle added 11 points, Chris Tate scored 10 and Clenzo Ross contributed nine points. Washington and Srdjan Ivic paced the team with five rebounds apiece.
Alfonso Davis led Clayton State with a double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 boards. Dantez Bennamon added 13 points including some important baskets down the stretch for the Lakers. Mike Scott scored 12 points, Jaumonee Byrd added 10 points, while Jaylen Taylor and Nathan Powell contributed nine apiece.
Washington's second 3 of the night handed the Bearcats their first lead at 11-10 at the 15:47 mark. It would turn out to be Lander's only lead of the game. Scott's driving basket gave Clayton State a 23-19 advantage at the midway point of the opening half.
Scott's 3 from the left corner gave the Lakers their first double-digit lead at 32-22 at the seven-minute mark.
After another Clayton State basket increased the lead to 12, Lander went on an 11-2 run to pull within a possession at 36-33 with 1:25left. Telvin Gabriel led the defensive charge with three blocked shots during the run, Dingle scored four points, and Purdie capped the rally with the final five points including a three-point play after he went high off the glass for a driving layup.
The Lakers scored the final five points of the half for a 41-33 lead at the break.
Kendall Joseph's baseline jumper equaled Clayton State's largest lead at 47-35 with 18:26 to go.
Tate scored six consecutive points including a layup off Washington's length-of-the court pass to pull the Bearcats within 47-41 at the 16:14mark, and Ross's 3 cut it to 50-44 with 15:22 to go.
Down 50-48, Lander had two opportunities to tie or take the lead but had a missed shot and a turnover. Kyle Kincey hit consecutive spectacular shots to extend the Laker lead back to six.
Washington scored inside at the 11:39 mark to move into fourth on the school scoring list and followed that with a 3 as the Bearcats were within 58-55 with 11:08 to go.
Lander rallied into a 62-all tie with a pair of amazing plays. After Washington blocked a shot, Purdie drove toward the lane, faked a pass, raced to the basket and hit a tear drop shot off the glass. Dingle followed with a game-tying, high-arcing 3 from the left corner at the 8:11 mark as he fell to the floor in the face of a defender.
Bennamon scored twice to put Clayton State back ahead 71-64 with 5:27 to go.
The Bearcats rallied yet again with Purdie making a scoop layup, Dingle putting back his own miss and Washington nailing a 3 from the left side, pulling the hosts within 75-73 with 3:31 left.
Bennamon's jumper pushed the Lakers back out to a 79-73 lead with 2:25 to go, and he added a fade-away jumper that bounced off the rim and fell in to make it 81-75 just inside the minute mark.
Purdie raced up the floor, stopped short of the arc and hit a 3 to cut Lander's deficit to 84-80 with 29 seconds left.
But Powell took a long football pass from Davis and converted the layup to make it 86-80 with 27 seconds to go.