Needing a spark, the Dalton State College men’s basketball team brought out its zone press.
The tactic helped the Roadrunners race to another win in their return season.
Dalton State’s full-court defense ignited a 21-5 run to begin the second half Wednesday and Sean Tate made four consecutive free throws in the final minute to seal a 72-68 win against Atlanta’s Carver College at the trade center.
The Roadrunners improved to 6-1 with the win, the second in two home games this season.
Trailing 26-22 at halftime, Dalton State forced seven turnovers — three on consecutive possessions — in the next seven minutes and took control of the game with its defense. Ricky Sears had three of his five steals in the span and converted one from the press into a layup and a 39-30 lead. The end of the run came when Tate grabbed his third steal of the game and Raheem Mosley’s offensive rebound and layup put Dalton State up 43-31 with 12:41 to play.
Dalton State coach Tony Ingle said he saved the press because of a lack of depth and endurance concerns if the taxing defense is used too much. Once unleashed, he saw the Roadrunners’ scoring improve.
“I think all great teams have the ability for (scoring in spurts),” Ingle said, “and we’ve been able to do that this year.”
Carver (2-5) finished with 22 turnovers to 17 for Dalton State, which has won all but one turnover battle this year.
“We got a lot of turnovers and picked the intensity up,” said Dalton State forward Preston Earle, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “We came out flat in the first half, and we have to fix that.”
Carver led most of the first half, keeping Dalton State to 9-for-25 shooting from the field before the break and 0-for-6 from beyond the 3-point line. In the second half, the Roadrunners went 14-for-30 from the field and 5-for-11 on 3-pointers. They finished with a 41.8 shooting percentage for the game.
Dalton State didn’t score a point until Sears converted two free throws 4:43 into the game and didn’t take its first lead until 2:51 remained in the first half as Tate converted two foul shots for a 22-21 edge. The Roadrunners did not make a non-layup field goal until Demetrice Jacobs’ 3-pointer with 19:02 remaining in the second half cut Carver’s lead to 28-27.
“If you can come out in a blaze of glory, boy you love those games,” Ingle said. “Usually it catches up to you by the time the game ends.”
The Cougars cut the Roadrunners’ second-half advantage to two points numerous times — thanks to entering the foul bonus with just less than 11 minutes left — but Earle’s 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining gave Dalton State a 61-53 lead. Ahead 68-66, Tate made both free throws with 14 seconds left and did the same with five seconds remaining and the Roadrunners nursing a 70-68 lead.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” Carver coach Rolando Lamb said, “and as we fought back, we just ran out of gas.”
Both teams had three players score in double digits. Sears finished with 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds and chipped in six assists. Tate added 16 points.
Carver’s leading scorer, Joseph Comer, had 16 points. Derek Douglas added 15 and Julian Bratton had 13. Carver and Dalton State tied 30-30 in rebounds, with the Cougars grabbing 19 offensive rebounds to the Roadrunners’ nine.