Eichelberger leads Golden Tigers to first win
TUSKEGEE, Ala. – Josh Eichelberger registered his second double-double of the season and blocked seven shots last Tuesday night as the Golden Tigers defeated Claflin 64-54 at the James Center for their first victory of the season.
The win ended the Golden Tigers’ two-game losing streak.
Eichelberger, a junior from Detroit, had 21 points and 10 rebounds against Claflin. He also had a double-double with 30 points and 13 rebounds in the Golden Tigers’ season-opening loss to Clark Atlanta .Nov. 22.
“Eichelberger is one of the top players in the conference right now,’’ Coach Leon Douglas said. “Those aren’t bad stats.’’
Eichelberger averages 19.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots. He averaged 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds last season and blocked a total of 16 shots in a backup role. Douglas says Eichelberger’s scoring binge shouldn’t be surprising since he scored 57 points in a high school game.
“If you can score 57 points in a high school game, there’s some talent somewhere,’’ he said. “He’s really playing, doing many intangibles. He’s doing it all for us.’’
Douglas, however, said he doesn’t expect Eichelberger to maintain his current scoring pace for the remainder of the season.
“The makeup (Calvin) Thomas, (Lucius) Winston, (Derrick) White, any of them can have a great night,’’ Douglas said. “We don’t have one primary scorer.’’
Against Claflin (2-6, 2-5 SIAC), neither team had any primary scorers in the early going as both struggled offensively. They combined to miss their first 10 shots. Neither team scored until more than three minutes had elapsed, and they committed three turnovers.
The Golden Tigers (1-2. 1-2 SIAC), seemingly rusty from an eight-day layoff, finally found their groove and went on a 16-5 run. They took a 21-11 lead with 7:01 remaining in the first half and were ahead 27-21 at the break.
The Golden Tigers never trailed in the second half, and Claflin was unable to get closer than three points of lead. The Golden Tigers kept the Panthers at bay with a hot shooting performance over the last 20 minutes. They were 16-for-28 from the field (57%). Eichelberger was virtually unstoppable in the second half, making five of his six shot attempts and scoring 10 points. He was 10-for-15 for the night and enabled the Golden Tigers to outscore Claflin 40-16 in the paint.
Coach Leon Douglas tinkered with the Golden Tigers’ lineup in their last game – an 86-51 home loss to Albany State – and started freshmen guards Jordan Benson and Kevin May. Douglas went with an experienced backcourt of Winston, senior, Thomas, a junior, against Claflin, and the move netted positive results. The duo ignited the Golden Tigers’ running game, which produced a 22-0 edge in fast break points. Thomas had 13 points.
“I’m going to need those young kids,’’ Douglas said, explaining his decision to start Benson and May against Albany State. “I jeopardized a game, but I needed to, and it cost me. They didn’t have the maturity to handle Albany State. But they gained a wealth of experience. I would do it again. I am not playing for now. I am playing for February and March (when the Golden Tigers will compete in the SIAC Tournament and, they hope, the Division II Tournament).’’