BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Claflin University men’s basketball avoided a repeat of last year’s opening-round loss in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday by defeating Tuskegee University, 73-62, at the Bill Harris Arena.
The win earned Claflin, now 22-6 on the season, a date with Lane College, an 80-60 winner over Paine College, on Thursday. In their only meeting this season, the Panthers defeated Lane 63-57 behind the double-double performance of Jaleel Charles with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Triston Thompson and Benjamin “Tre” Williams led the Panthers in the win over Tuskegee with 15 points each. Triston Thompson was near-perfect from the free throw line at 9-for-10, while “Tre” Williams added a team-high eight rebounds.
Other top scorers for Claflin included Austin Lawton with nine points followed by Timothy Christian II, Brandon Davis and Charles with eight points each.
Tuskegee, which finished the season with a 7-22 record, was led in scoring by James Eads, who dropped in a game-high 24 points. Myles Thomas scored 17 points with seven rebounds and Travis Flagg added 12 points
In last year tournament, Claflin suffered a 76-58 defeat to Fort Valley State University in the quarterfinal after receiving a first-round bye. The loss lingers on the minds of Panther players having experienced the early exit from the tournament.
“We had a disappointing first round last season and our returning players remembered the loss,” Claflin Coach Ricky Jackson said. “Last season, we expected to win the first game after our accomplishments during the regular season. We fell short to Fort Valley State, so I expected some jitters at the beginning of the game against Tuskegee.”
Jackson’s team started slow start, scoring just 10 points over the first six minutes of play. The Golden Tigers used the slowness to their advantage, breaking a 10-10 tie on a three-pointer from Thomas 13-10 lead at the 13:50 mark.
Tuskegee held the lead over the next 10-plus minutes before Claflin pulled even at 30-30 with 2:20 left in the half. Albert “Trey” Miller tied the contest with a three-pointer. The Panthers outscored Tuskegee 20-17 during that period.
Tuskegee scored the last three points of the half, all coming from the free throw line, to lead 33-30 at intermission.
In the second half, the Panthers got the offense on track, outscoring Tuskegee 43-29 in the period.
Claflin used a 10-0 run to wipe away a 38-30 Tuskegee lead to go up at 40-38 with 13:19 left in the game.
After Tuskegee regained the lead on a free throw and a basket at 41-40 with 12:49 left, “Tre” Williams gave the Panthers the lead for good at 42-41 with 12:30 left on a layup.
From that point, Claflin built a 14-point margin and led 61-47 with 6:27 left by outscoring Tuskegee 19-6.
In the final minutes, Tuskegee closed the gap to 63-56 with 3:56 left, but the Panthers outscored the Golden Tigers 10-6 the rest of the way.