Golden Tigers retain conference lead


TUSKEGEE, Ala. –  The Golden Tigers won two out of three games last week and maintained their grip on first place in the SIAC.

The Golden Tigers opened the week with a 79-75 home victory against Paine at the James Center Monday in a showdown for first place in the conference. The Golden Tigers entered the contest with a half-game lead over the Lions.

On Thursday, they began a five-game road trip with a 74-66 overtime win at Fort Valley State. The Golden Tigers concluded the week with a 69-63 loss at Albany State that ended their three-game winning streak.

The Golden Tigers, 8-2 in their last 10 games, remain atop the SIAC with an 11-5 conference record. They are 11-7 overall

Junior guard Calvin Thomas and senior forward Joshua Eichelberger carried the Golden Tigers during the week. Eichelberger averaged 22 points and 13 rebounds. Thomas averaged 18 points, and he made key shots down the stretch in the wins against Paine and Fort Valley State.

Thomas played the role of the closer against Paine. He scored all 19 of his points in the final 14 minutes as the Golden Tigers held off the Lions.

The score was close for most of the contest as neither team led by more than nine points during the first 35 minutes. The Golden Tigers were ahead by a point, 34-33, at the half. They built the first double-figure lead of the night when Josh Eichelberger made a pair of free throws with 4:47 that made the score 67-56. Thomas’ layup with 2:03 gave the Golden Tigers a seemingly safe 13-point advantage, 71-58. However, Paine pecked away at the lead and the game got interesting, thanks to the shooting of Kenny Fluellen, who led the Lions with 19 points.

The Golden Tigers finally sealed the victory when Lucius Winston made one of two free throws with six seconds remaining for the final margin.

The Golden Tigers won despite being outrebounded 42-28 and shooing just 52% (13-for-25) from the free throw line. They offset those deficiencies by making eight of 20 three-pointers (40%). Thomas and Winston combined to go 5-for-10 from behind the arc. Eichelberger led all scorers with 24 points for the Golden Tigers. He also had 10 rebounds.

The Golden Tigers overcame a seven-point deficit in the final 1:57 of regulation to defeat Fort Valley State in overtime. They hit the Wildcats with a barrage of three-pointers at the end of regulation and the beginning of the overtime period to pick up their third consecutive victory. Thomas made a pair of shots from behind the arc in a 12-second span to cut Fort Valley State’s lead to 61-60 with 1:31 left in regulation.

Joshuah Davis made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds remaining to push
Fort Valley State’ lead back to three points. Eichelberger then nailed a three-pointer to send the game into overtime, tied 63-all.

Thomas and Lucius Winston opened the extra session with back-to-back three-pointers, and Thomas added a jumper to put the Golden Tigers ahead 68-65, and they never trailed again.

Eichelberger had 21 points and 16 rebounds for the Golden Tigers. Thomas led all scorers with 24 points.

The Golden Tigers’ shooting touch deserted them against Albany State. They were 21-for-66 from the field (32%), including 4-for-14 (27%) on three-pointers as they lost to the Golden Rams for the second time this season. Albany State handed the Golden Tigers their most lopsided conference loss of the season, 86-61, at the James Center Dec. 5.

The Golden Tigers never led in the rematch. They were behind by double digits for a large portion of the first half and trailed 38-34 going into the final 20 minutes. The Golden Tigers got to within a point of the lead a number of times in the second half, and they tied the score on four occasions. The last deadlock was at 55-all when Derrick White made a jumper with 5:41 left.

The Golden Tigers only converted two more field goals for the remainder of the game, a jumper by Eichelberger at the 1:13 mark and a three-pointer by Javier McKinney with 10 seconds left. They were 2-for-9 from the field with two turnovers during that span.

Eichelberger had a double-double – 22 points and 13 rebounds – to lead the Golden Tigers.

Eichelberger, SIAC Player of the Week,  earned his third weekly honor this season after averaging 22.3 points and 13 rebounds in three games,

The Golden Tigers will play at Claflin on Tuesday, Benedict on Thursday, Paine on Saturday and Morehouse on Monday

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