Basketball Golden Tigers drop season opener

11/30/2011

ATLANTA, Ga. — Missed free throws cost the Golden Tigers (0-1, 0-1 SIAC) dearly in a gut-wrenching 73-71 season opening SIAC loss to Clark Atlanta.

The Golden Tigers missed five of seven foul shots in the final 36 seconds, and they were 11-for-26 from the foul line for the game. 

Their errant foul shooting overshadowed a dominant performance by forward Josh Eichelberger. The 6-5 senior from Detroit had 30 points and 13 rebounds – both game highs. Eichelberger shot 14-for-24 from the field as he almost single-handedly kept the Golden Tigers in the game. Guard Calvin Thomas, who had 10 points, was the only other Golden Tiger who scored in double figures.

Eichelberger had an opportunity to give the Golden Tigers a two-point lead with 36 seconds left in the game, but he missed a pair of free throws. His jumper 30 seconds earlier had tied the score at 69-all.

After Clark Atlanta took a two-point lead following Eichelberger’s miss, Derrick White went to the foul line and split a pair of free throws. That left the Golden Tigers behind by a point, 71-70. Willis Brownlee increased the Panthers’ lead to three points, 73-70 with a pair of free throws with four seconds left.

The Golden Tigers had an opportunity to send the game to overtime when freshman Kevin May was fouled on a three-point shot with two seconds remaining.  May, who shot better than 90% from the free throw line at Sumter (Ala.) County High, missed the first two free throws. Coach Leon Douglas instructed May to miss his final attempt, but he ended up making it.

“That tells you a lot about how things went for us at the free throw line,’’ Douglas said.  “You get the right person at the line and end up with the wrong results. We will put a lot of time on free throws in practice so what happened won’t happen again. But, free throw shooting is something you can’t coach. You can make them shoot a lot of them. It boils down to how they feel at the line.’’

The Golden Tigers led throughout the first half even though they shot just 50% from the foul line. They were deadly from the field, shooting 50% from the floor, and led by as many as 12 points. However, they cooled off in the waning minutes only led by a point, at the start of the second period.

The Golden Tigers maintained their advantage through the first six minutes of the second half until Clark Atlanta went ahead 51-49, and the Panthers never trailed again.

The Golden Tigers had a strong defensive performance, forcing 20 turnovers, which led to 21 points; 14 of the turnovers came in the first half. Senior guard Bobby Davis had a team-high three steals.

Rebounding was a sore point for the Golden Tigers. The Panthers beat them on the boards 46-37. The Golden Tigers did have 19 offensive rebounds, however, which they converted into 18-second chance points. A bright spot for the Golden Tigers was their ability to take care of the ball. They only committed eight turnovers, four in each half.

“I’m pleased with the effort,’’ Douglas said, “mainly because that the first game we’ve played. That was the first real test they had. I was pleased with it, but I would have felt better if we had won. I’m okay, not with the loss but with everything that transpired, except for the free throw shooting.’’

Douglas said that Eichelberger’s scoring outburst was especially encouraging. Eichelberger averaged 5.0 points a game last season.

“That is what’s amazing, when you get a kid who is not a scorer scoring like that,’’ he said. “That indicates the team will be well-rounded.’’

The Golden Tigers return to action with an SIAC contest against Albany State at the James Center Dec. 5 in their first home game. They also play Claflin at the James Center Dec. 13 in another conference game

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