CLAYTON — Unbeaten Clayton improved to 4-0 with a solid nonconference victory over Cleveland on Tuesday, pulling away in the third period en route to a 73-53 win.
Ahead 36-30 at halftime, the Comets outscored Cleveland 14-4 to lead 50-34 after three quarters.
“We started playing better on both sides of the ball in the third quarter,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “We were moving the ball better (on offense) and trying to keep the ball out of the lane (on defense). We were just a little more active.”
Cleveland, which fell to 1-2, shadowed Comets star Gary Clark all night, putting at least one player on him at all times. Often, the Rams had a player on each side of the 6-foot-8 senior who is going to Cincinnati, deploying the rest of their defenders in a zone.
While that limited Clark to 14 points, 12 of those in the first half, it allowed Clayton’s perimeter players to take open jumpers and drive to the basket.
Senior guard Dawson Medlin, the coach’s son, led the Comets with 15 points – all on 3-pointers. Chris Dixon added 11.
Not that Clark was a non-factor. The big man had 21 rebounds, several blocked shots and two assists.
In the first half, Clark twice grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled the length of the court and scored after spinning past defenders in the lane. His only second-half points came on an alley-oop dunk.
“We started attacking the gaps of their triangle a little bit and kicking out for easy shots,” Medlin said. “We just had our guys attacking the basket.
“We did some good things. We have to keep getting better. We have to persevere through some things when they don’t go our way. I think we did that in the third quarter.”
Bobby Stenborg led Cleveland with 33 points, scoring 22 in the first half. But he was held scoreless in the pivotal third period.
“They are an explosive team offensively,” Cleveland coach John Jacobs said of the Comets. “They hit two 3s in a row (in the third period), and I called timeout. And while they were making 3s, we couldn’t score. That put us behind the eight ball for the rest of the game.
“We are not very explosive team offensively. We can be, but we are really streaky. We can’t do it all the time.”
Jacobs said he thought his defense against Clark was effective, but the other Comets did a good job of making open shots.
“When you play that kind of defense, you have to swallow it when it happens,” Jacobs said. “We didn’t cover it as well as we could some of time, but when they got an opportunity, they made the shots. You’ve just got to tip your hats to them.
“If we play a zone, they lob it in to (Clark). We had to try different stuff. If we had been able to hit some shots in that third period, it might have been different. But when you get behind a team like that, it’s tough.”
Medlin’s team, which starts three seniors, hits the Thanksgiving break unbeaten and has shown the ability to put together stretches of high-powered basketball. Still, the Comets’ coach is looking for consistency in both phases of the game.
“We’ve got to get better,” Medlin said. “It’s going to get tougher. We just have to come to practice every day and get better as a team defensively and more efficient offensively.”