Golden Tigers take over top spot in SIAC standings

1/29/2012

TUSKEGEE, Ala. – The Golden Tigers took over first place in the SIAC by winning two out of three conference games last week.

The Golden Tigers split a pair of road games, defeating Kentucky State 65-60 in Frankfort, Ky., Monday to start the week, and losing to Lane College 83-66 in Jackson, Tenn., Thursday. The loss snapped their five-game winning streak. They returned to the James Center Saturday and beat Benedict College 76-72.

The Golden Tigers (9-6 overall, 9-4 SIAC) have a half-game lead over Paine College (11-6, 10-5) in the conference standings.

“It wasn’t a bad week at all,’’ Coach Leon Douglas said, adding that he hadn’t anticipated that the Golden Tigers would be at the top of the conference at this stage of the season. “Normally we play better down the stretch. We’re playing better earlier. We’re competing for the regular-season championship. Normally, we’re preparing for the (conference) tournament. This year we’re doing both.’’

The Golden Tigers host Paine at the James Center Monday night in a showdown for first place.

The Golden Tigers never trailed against Kentucky State (6-10, 6-9 SIAC). The score was tied four times, with the last deadlock coming at the 10:58 left in the game. The score was deadlocked 47-all at that point.

Joshua Eichelberger made one of two free throws with 9:46 left to give the Golden Tigers a 48-47 lead that they protected with a tenacious defensive effort and timely scoring.

The Golden Tigers outscored Kentucky State 12-2 to start the game for their biggest lead of the night. The Thorobreds regrouped, however, and cut the lead to two points, 34-32, by the time the first half ended.

Calvin Thomas led the Golden Tigers with 15 points, and Eichelberger and Javier McKinney had 11 each.  Thomas and Eichelberger are the second and third leading scorers in the conference.

A meltdown in the final 10 minutes of the first half against Lane doomed the Golden Tigers to a defeat against Lane. They were ahead 18-15 with 10:39 remaining in the half, but the Dragons outscored them 24-9 for a 39-27 lead at the intermission.

The Golden Tigers cut Lane’s lead to five points, 42-37, with 16 minutes left in the game. But that was as close as they came to catching up.

Eichelberger posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

Eichelberger had his eighth double-double of the season with 26 points and 10 rebounds against Benedict (8-7, 7-6 SIAC). The Golden Tigers led wire to wire and the score was tied just once – 2-2 – in a hard fought home win against Benedict. They were ahead by double figures for most of the latter part of the first half and led by as many as 13 points.

The Golden Tigers carried a 43-34 lead into the second half. Benedict battled back in the final 20 minutes and got to within two points of the lead, 43-41, with 18:20 remaining in the game. The Golden Tigers managed to gather themselves. They stretched their lead back to double figures, 71-59, when Kevin May made a three-pointer with 1:59 remaining in the game and then held off Benedict for the win.

Even though the Golden Tigers are ahead of where Douglas expected them to be, he said he doesn’t think his team will have a letdown.

“We’re going to continue to improve,’’ Douglas said. “I’ve played young guys with the idea that they will be better down the stretch. People who normally wouldn’t be in there will get better, and at the end of the day, the team will be better. If we lose, we lose. The next game we try to get better. If that wasn’t our attitude, the loss to Lane would have been devastating.’’

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