By Patrick Gordon/Lakeland Sports Information
Columbus, OH---There are no off days in the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference. One of the most competitive leagues in the country showcased its strength on Wednesday night when No. 15 Lakeland visited No. 19 Columbus in the state capital.
Both teams entered the game nationally ranked and in pursuit of a 2-0 start in the conference for the second consecutive season. Lakeland led nearly start to finish and iced the game with four straight free throws in the closing seconds to pick up a hard fought 82-78 win and improve to 11-4 overall. Columbus State drops to 12-5 overall with the loss.
One game removed from nearly blowing a late lead against Cincinnati State by failing to convert from the charity stripe, the Lakers showed poise by shooting 86% from the free throw line on Wednesday night. Sophomore guard Daishon Robinson went 6-for-6 on the night and drilled all four attempts in the final minute to ensure the victory.
Tied at 76 with less than a minute to play, Martell Medley nailed a jumper to give Lakeland a slim two point lead. Columbus State came up empty on the ensuing possession and Lakeland secured the defensive rebound. Robinson was fouled immediately and converted both attempts to give the visitors a four point cushion. The Cougars cut the deficit in half with a bucket on the other end but left Robinson unguarded on the inbounds pass. After being fouled, the second year guard calmly put the game away with two more from the line to give Lakeland its final four point cushion.
Medley tied a season-high with 21 points including a trio of three pointers to go along with six rebounds. Robinson finished with 18 points on the night, reaching double figures for the seventh time this season. Charles Oliver and Deran Banton added 16 and 11, respectively.
Sophomore forward Richard Smith put together another solid all-around game with nine rebounds, seven points, and five blocks in the victory, Lakeland's fourth straight and seventh in its last eight games.
The Lakers take a break from the conference slate this weekend when they take on Spire Institute on Friday (Jan. 18) before another tough road test on Wednesday (Jan. 23) when they travel to Owens Community College at 7:30 p.m. The Express were on the cusp of a national ranking last week and face Cincinnati State on Saturday afternoon. A win on Saturday would all but ensure a top-20 ranking and provide Lakeland with its third straight game against a ranked team to open OCCAC play.