Golden Tigers ready to defend SIAC Tournament Championship


The Golden Tigers, the defending champions, are on a roll heading into the 2011 SIAC Tournament.

They closed out the regular season with another strong week as they knocked off Paine, Fort Valley State and Stillman, which is ranked No. 8 in the NCAA Division II South Region and the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament that starts Wednesday in Atlanta.

The Golden Tigers began the week with an 81-62 home win against Paine on Feb. 22; they eked out a 62-59 road victory against Fort Valley State Feb. 24 and closed the week with a 90-76 triumph over Stillman at the James Center Feb. 26. The victories extended their winning streak to four straight games and clinched the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

The Golden Tigers, 18-8 overall and 18-6 in the conference, will enter the tournament having won eight of their last 10 games. Only Benedict, the No. 1 seed, has been better in its last 10 games with a 9-1 mark.

The Golden Tigers turned a close game into a rout with their hot shooting in the second half against Paine. They were on top 39-35 at the half after leading by double figures for most of the first period. They shot 67% from the field (16-for-24) in the final 20 minutes and blew the game open.

Lorell Friend led the Golden Tigers with 16 points. Calvin Thomas added 14.

The Golden Tigers survived a sloppy first half against Fort Valley State that saw them commit 11 turnovers, which led to 10 points for the Wildcats. The miscues helped Fort Valley State build a 33-28 halftime advantage.

The Golden Tigers battled back in the second half and went ahead 56-54 on Thomas’ layup with 3:38 remaining. Fort Valley State tied the score at 56-all on its next possession,  but Friend scored five straight points on a pair of  jumpers and a free throw, and Javier McKinney made one of two free throws to put the game away.

Thomas scored 19 points and Friend had 15 for the Golden Tigers, who gained retribution for an 80-70 loss to Fort Valley State at the James Center earlier this month. The defeat was their only setback at home this season.

Six players scored in double figures for the Golden Tigers in their win against Stillman. Thomas and Andrae Nelson had 17 points each; Friend and McKinney scored 10 apiece, and Joshua Eichelberger and Aaron Ragsdale had 13 and 12, respectively.

Nelson grabbed 12 rebounds, and Ragsdale had 10 for double-doubles.

The game was never close as the Golden Tigers avenged an 82-75 loss to Stillman in Tuscaloosa last month. They held Stillman to 29% shooting from the field in the first half (10-for-34) and were ahead by double figures after nine minutes. The Golden Tigers led by as many as 27 points in the second half as they posted their second-highest point total of the season.
The Golden Tigers will face the Wednesday night winner of the Morehouse-Miles game on Thur., Mar. 3 at 8:00 p.m. ET, in the SIAC Basketball Tournament at Morehouse College.

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