Clayton used its quickness to fuel a high-octane transition game, wearing down Cleveland in a 74-60 nonconference basketball victory Tuesday night.
The Comets (4-1) built a 13-piont lead in the first quarter and withstood a flurry by Cleveland (1-4) in the second and third periods to win going away.
“I was pleased with the way we played defense overall tonight and the way we got out in transition,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “When we moved the ball well we got good shots. When we rushed, we turned it over.
“We just have to build on what we did well.”
What the Comets did well was push the ball up the floor, most notably in the first and fourth periods.
Senior guard Tre Armstead was at the finishing end of many of the breaks, scoring a game-high 21 points for Clayton.
Post player Darrius Stevens contributed 17 points and double-digit rebounds for the Comets and Kenny Williams had 16 points.
Clayton led 23-10 at the end of the first period, but Cleveland clawed back into the game with a 3-point barrage – getting long-range shots from Tonio Mayo on successive possessions and Landry Moore in the second quarter to pull within 30-27 at halftime.
The Rams led at 39-38 with 3:44 left in the third period, but Clayton climbed back into a 48-43 lead by the end of the period and added to the advantage in the final period.
“They are a good team and are really fast,” Cleveland coach John Jacobs said. “We had to work really hard to keep up with them. I don’t play many people right now and we got a little tired. The kids gave a good effort.
“In the first quarter, we were turning the ball over and it seemed like every basket they scored was a layup. But in the second quarter, we decided to start playing a little defense.”
Clayton was still in a battle with the Rams early in the fourth period, leading just 50-46 with 6:06 left in the game. The Comets went on a 12-2 run – fueled by 3-pointers from Amstead, Williams and McCaleb Robertson and a pair of steals on defense that led to fast breaks.
After the spurt, the Comets led 62-48 with 3:33 remaining and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
They said it
“If we can get defensive stops it helps us get out in transition,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “We score a lot better if we can get out in transition. … This is still a team that is coming together. We’re getting a little better every day.”
Three who mattered
Tre Armstead, Clayton: The senior guard had a game-high 21 points, running the offense and pushing the fast break whenever he had an opportunity. The ball-hawking defender also had several steals.
Darrius Stevens, Clayton: Working inside for follow shots or driving to the hoop, Stevens was a presence under the basket for the Comets the entire game – finishing with 17 points and double-digit rebounds.
Jaylyn Pearce, Cleveland: The senior guard led the Rams with 17 points, many of those coming on slashing drives to the basket. He also knocked in a 3-pointer in the third quarter to tie the score at 42.