Story by Nicholas Austin-Holliday
Photos by Between Classes Magazine
It was the first time that a team from the SIAC conference made it to the Elite 8 since Alabama A&M accomplished the feat in 1996 and the Tuskegee Golden Tigers didn’t disappoint. The crowd wasn’t big but the Tigers put on a show for the ones who came out. The Delta State Statesmen gave it their all and battled with the Tigers through the first half and were only down by nine at halftime. The Statesmen wouldn’t be so lucky in the second half as the Tigers superior play and athleticism wore them down and eventually handed them a crushing 80-59 loss.
The game started out with both teams pushing the ball at a decent pace but neither team really outpaced the other in the beginning, and with 10:47 left in the first half the Tigers led 18-15. Back to back three pointers by the Statesmen gave them a 21-18 lead but that wouldn’t last very long. The refs allowed a lot of physical play in the paint between the teams which benefited the Tigers because they were the more physical team. With 5:36 left in the first half the physical play was on full display as the Tigers Kevin May, Javier McKinney, and Keith Winn Jr. forced four turnovers on the next five possessions which gave them an eight point lead. The Tigers Elliot Dean followed that with a three to give them a 36-26 lead which was their largest of the game. With only seconds left in the first half the Tigers Javier McKinney stole the ball from Devin Schmidt and hit a three pointer at the buzzer to give them a 41-32 halftime lead.
The second half started the way the first half ended with the Tigers pushing the pace and the Statesmen scoring but enough to keep up with the Tigers. With 15:17 left in the half the Tigers Kevin May scored on back to back lay-ups to give his team a 54-36 lead. The Tigers didn’t let up the rest of the game and although the rebounding was fairly even the Tigers forced 17 turnovers to the 11 that the Statesmen forced. The Tigers Javier McKinney pushed his teams lead to 62-40 with 10:27 left in the game off of a three point play the hard way, and the Statesmen’s Willie Readus followed with a power lay-up of his own, but the score was still getting out of reach. With 7:48 left in the game the Tigers were up 70-46 and easily running away with the game. This caused expected frustration to mount on the Statesmen’s side and Willie Readus ended up drawing a technical foul for dismissing what the referee was saying towards him and the bench. With about two minutes left Coach Leon Douglas, the head coach of the Tigers, started pulling his starters out of the game and they were met with standing ovations from the fans.
The intensity that the Tigers were going to play with was apparent from the tip off. The Statesmen were able to match that intensity for only a short while before Tigers completely took over the game. For the game the Tigers shot 50% from the field, 46% from three point range, and made 42% of their free throws. When the Tigers are shooting that well and forcing multiple turnovers they are tough to beat which the Statesmen found out the hard way. The Tigers next match up is against the Metropolitan State Roadrunners on March 26 in Evansville, Indiana.