Golden Tigers eye SIAC conference and tournament championships
TUSKEGEE, Ala. - The Golden Tigers inched closer to the SIAC regular season championship and the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament by winning two out of three games last week.
They began the week with an 83-77 loss to Morehouse Monday in the finale of a six-game road trek. Playing at the James Center for the first time in more than two weeks, the Golden Tigers outlasted Lane 83-77 Thursday, and they breezed to a 67-49 home victory against Kentucky State Saturday.
The Golden Tigers (15-9, 15-7 are tied with Clark Atlanta (15-11, 15-7 for first place in the conference, and LeMoyne-Owen (14-9, 14-7 SIAC) is in third place, a half game behind the leaders. The Golden Tigers have a home game against Fort Valley State Thursday and a road contest against Stillman Saturday remaining. The Golden Tigers split their two regular season contests with Clark Atlanta as each won at home. If both win their remaining games, the Golden Tigers will get the No. 1 seed based on the tie-breaker – their records against the third-place team, which is currently LeMoyne-Owen. Victories in their two remaining games would also win the tie-breaker in the event of a three-way tie among them, Clark Atlanta and LeMoyne-Owen.
“We’re trying to win out,’’ Coach Leon Douglas said, pointing out that the No. 7 Golden Tigers are the only SIAC team that is ranked in the South Region and that the top eight receive automatic bids to the NCAA Division II tournament.“We’re trying to improve our position. In order to do that, we have to keep winning. The last couple of games they have played in that manner.’’
The Golden Tigers are vying to become the first Tuskegee basketball team since 1947-48 to win the SIAC regular season conference and tournament championships.
“That would be very significant,’’ Douglas said.“ It’s something the guys want to do. We’re trying to pull it off. If we get these last two games, it would put us in a great position to fulfill some dreams.’’
A nightmarish scoring drought that lasted nearly five minutes doomed the Golden Tigers to defeat against Morehouse.
The Golden Tigers and the Maroon Tigers battled on virtually even terms for most of the first half. The largest lead for either team in the opening 20 minutes was Morehouse’s six-point advantage, 27-21, at the 8:38 mark. The score was tied six times before Morehouse emerged with a three-point lead at the break, 41-38.
The Golden Tigers stayed with Morehouse through the first seven minutes of the second half and trailed 58-54 with 13:06 remaining after Javier McKinney scored on a layup .However, they didn’t get another bucket until Lucius Winston made a three-pointer with 8:04 remaining. By that time, Morehouse was on top 67-57. The Golden Tigers were never able to get closer than six points of the lead the remainder of the contest.
Calvin Thomas single-handedly kept the Golden Tigers in the game with 29 points. He was their only double-figures scorer.
Three-pointers were the Golden Tigers’ best friend in their victory against Lane. They were 8-for-20 (40%) from behind the arc, including 4-for-8 (50%) in the second half when they pulled away from the Dragons.
The Golden Tigers led 40-38 at the half. They quickly increased their lead to double figures, 50-40, in the first three minutes of the second half as Calvin Thomas and Winston drained three pointers with a layup by Derrick White sandwiched in between. The Golden Tigers’ lead grew to 14 points, 62-48, with13:16 left after they went on an 11-4 run.
Lane pulled to within four points of the lead at the 7:33 mark, but the Golden Tigers went on an 11-2 run and regained control of the contest.
McKinney led the Golden Tigers with 24 points. White contributed a double-double with 16 points and 20 rebounds. The Golden Tigers forced Lane to commit 24 turnovers, which led to 29 points.
The Golden Tigers turned up the defensive pressure in the second half against Kentucky State (9-14, 9-12) and turned a tight game into a laugher.
The Thorobreds led 32-31 at the, but they held Kentucky State to 17 points over the final 20 minutes and limited the Thorobreds to 29% (5-17) shooting from the field. The Golden Tigers outscored Kentucky State 28-11 over the final 14:43.
Thomas led the Golden Tigers with 22 points. Joshua Eichelburger, who didn’t play against Lane because of an illness and wasn’t at full speed against Morehouse, had a strong game with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Golden Tigers will end their regular-season home schedule with a matchup with the Wildcats of Fort Valley State Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. It will be Senior Night for five Golden Tigers.