The Claflin men's basketball team pulled away from a halftime tie to topple Benedict, 74-65, on Saturday in a Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest inside Tullis Arena.
The Panthers (20-6 overall, 13-5 in SIAC) avenged a loss a week earlier to the Tigers (19-8 overall, 11-7 in SIAC) in Columbia.
On Senior Night, in the final home game of the season, Claflin had 11 of 12 players who registered minutes score at least 2 points apiece.
Displaying a fluid offense and stiffer defense in the second half, the Panthers dished out 15 assists in the game, compared to just 4 assists by the Tigers.
Senior wing forward Timothy Christian II went 3-for-4 on 3-pointers and finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Benjamin "Tre" Williams added 12 points, 7 rebounds and a game-high 4 assists. Junior guard Triston Thompson came off the bench to add 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Panthers showed their defensive prowess, collecting 7 steals compared to just a single steal for the Tigers.
The Panthers have now won 3 of their last 4 games and will travel to play Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, on Monday at 3:30 p.m. to finish out the SIAC regular-season schedule.
"I thought Timmy and Tondric knocked down big shots for us in the second half; so it helps that we have multiple pieces that can come in and bail us out and get us going," Claflin head coach Ricky Jackson said. "We had to defend the home court; and we're not going to get swept, that's just not going to happen.
"This could give us some good momentum. We've just got to get better over the next couple days, the Paine game, and then another week of practice. We should be ready to go into the conference tournament and make some noise."
Benedict was led by Brandon Morris with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocked shots. Dimitri Cook added 12 points and 4 rebounds, while Yasim Hooker added 10 points and 5 rebounds.
The Panthers got bench points that the Tigers didn't match. Claflin totaled 33 points from non-starters, while Benedict only managed 6 points from non-starters.
Christian and Williams combined to net 3 consecutive treys in the opening 6 minutes of the second half, pulling ahead by 10 points, 48-38. Then, after Benedict made 3 unanswered baskets, Claflin senior Tondric Johnson connected on back-to-back treys for a 54-44 lead with 10:40 left to play.
Williams drove in the paint for two more buckets late, before freshman Brandon Davis followed a putback basket with a 3-point play off a Tyler Thompson' steal for the largest lead of the game, 67-55, with 5:41 left to play.
In the final two minutes, Christian got a pass in the post from center Jaleel Charles for a dunk, before Williams finished the scoring on a shake-and-bake drive to the lane.
In the first half, neither team found any offensive rhythm. Neither set of cats needed 9 lives to survive, but both managed just 9 made field goals in the opening period. The Tigers went 9-for-25 from the field, while the Panthers went 9-for-32 from the field. Benedict missed all 5 of its 3-point attempts in the opening half, while Claflin made just one out of 10 attempts.
"In a rivalry game, guys are tight, family is in the building, and sometimes emotions take over early," Jackson said. "But, we got the win, and that's really what matters."
Tyler Thompson made all 4 of his free throws in the first half, leading Claflin with 8 first-half points. Cook scored 10 of his points for Benedict in the opening half, while Morris got 8 of his points in the period. Both Tigers netted 4 free throws apiece in the opening half.
Benedict led by as many as 11 points early, going up 23-12 on back-to-back 3-point plays from Cook and Devante Wiltshire near the 7-minute mark before haltime.
But, the Panthers roared back to pull within 3 points, 24-21, on a 3-point play by Williams with 2:26 left before intermission. Tyler Thompson then made good on his 4 shots from the charity stripe in the final minute to tie the game at 27-27 at the half.
BENEDICT (65) - Brandon Morris 19, Yasim Hooker 10, Cairo Brown 9, Dimitri Cook 12, Jelani Watson-Gayle 9, Devante Wiltshire 3, Mike Udume 3
CLAFLIN (74) - Timothy Christian II 13, Tyler Thompson 8, Benjamin Williams 12, Tondric Johnson 8, Donnell Boles 2, Triston Thompson 11, Albert Miller 2, Jordan Jones 3, Jaret Gassett 2, Brandon Davis 6, Austin Lawton 7