Golden Tigers defeat FVSU, lose to Stillman


TUSKEGEE, Ala. –  The Golden Tigers are the No. 1 seed in the SIAC Tournament, which will be played at Forbes Arena on the Morehouse College campus in Atlanta beginning Tuesday,  after splitting a pair of games last week. They defeated Fort Valley State 69-62 at the James Center Thursday night before bowing to Stillman 99-92 in a shootout in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Golden Tigers (16-10, 16-8 SIAC) and LeMoyne-Owen (16-10, 16-8 SIAC) ended the season with identical records, but the Golden Tigers got the top seed in the conference tournament by virtue of their two victories against the Magicians, 79-69 in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 5 and 82-76 at the James Center on Jan. 16.

The Golden Tigers, regular season champions for the first time since 1982-83, are eying their second tournament title in the last three years, and they could win the conference visitation and tournament championship in the same season for the first time since 1947-1948.

‘We set out to win the regular season and the tournament,’’ said Coach Leon Douglas, who has guided the Golden Tigers to three consecutive winning seasons.  “We accomplished one. Now it’s time to try to get the second one.’’

The Golden Tigers have a first-round bye, and they will play the winner of Tuesday’s Fort Valley State (12-14, (12-12) vs. Miles (11-15, 11-13 SIAC) opening round game in the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Even though the Golden Tigers will go into the tournament coming off a loss, Douglas said he likes the way his team is playing. The Golden Tigers won three of the last four games and four of their last six.

“We’re playing well,’’ Douglas said. “They understand what the purpose is, what the goal is. I feel comfortable. Anytime you lose it bothers you, but we might have needed that. Some guys have been doing stupid things all season, and they did stupid things (in the loss to Stillman). I was able to focus on that in our postgame meeting, and I will focus on that in practice. We’ve got a chance to iron out some wrinkles that we don’t need. Anytime you lose this late in the season, you can use it as a positive, not a negative. Had it caused us to lose the regular season championship, it would have been an issue.’’

The Golden Tigers jumped out to a big early lead against Fort Valley State, but they had to hold off a second-half rally by the Wildcats to preserve the victory and clinch a tie for the top seed. The Golden Tigers were on top by 12 points, 16-4, in the first four minutes, thanks to a barrage of three-pointers. Calvin Thomas, Kevin May and Lucius Winston each connected from behind the arc to get the Golden Tigers going. The lead grew to 16 points before Fort Valley State went on an 8-0 run late in the half that helped the Wildcats trim their deficit to nine points, 37-28, at intermission.

The Golden Tigers, whose largest deficit was one point when they were down 2-1, quickly stretched their lead to 14 points at the start of the second half. They maintained a double figure lead until the 8:55 mark. That’s when Fort Valley State outscored them 14-2 in a little more than three minutes and tied the score 56-all. The Golden Tigers regained the lead on another three-pointer by Thomas, but Fort Valley State knotted the score again at 59-all.with 4:27 remaining in the game. From that point, they held Fort Valley State to just one field goal and emerged with the win.

Thomas led the Golden Tigers with 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 3-for-6 from three-point range. Derrick White had a game-high 14 rebounds for the Golden Tigers.

The Golden Tigers’ season-high point total wasn’t enough to secure a victory against Stillman (16-10, 14-10 SIAC), which shot 50% (19-for-38) from the field and overcame a 12-point halftime deficit.

The Golden Tigers were red-hot from the field in the first half, shooting 63% (22-for-35), including 5-for-9 from three-point range. However, they cooled off considerably in second half, as they were 15-for-38 (39%) and 2-for-12 from behind the arc.

The Golden Tigers were still ahead by 11 points with 10 minutes remaining in the contest. Stillman hit them with an 18-5 run and took a 76-74 lead with 5:27 remaining and never trailed again.

Joshua Eichelberger led the Golden Tigers with 22 points before fouling out with 1:10 to play after only playing 23 minutes. White had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

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