Benedict hosts Claflin Saturday afternoon

Orangeburg, S.C. — Round Two of the Claflin University and Benedict College men’s basketball clash this season will take center stage Saturday (Feb. 17) at the Tullis Arena.

Tip-off for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) East Division contest gets underway approximately 30 minutes following the women’s contest, which starts at 1:30 p.m.

The doubleheader will also honor senior members of both Claflin basketball teams between games.

The meeting between Claflin and Benedict carries a significant importance for third place in the divisional standings as the regular season come to a close. The situation developed last weekend when Benedict held off the Panthers 68-64 in Columbia and the Tigers recent 70-64 overtime loss to Paine College. The results put Benedict, 19-8 overall and 11-7 against SIAC teams, a ½-game behind Claflin in the division standings at 5-6 with only the Panthers left on its conference.

“We will approach this game like every other game with a sense of urgency,” head coach Ricky Jackson said. “We know that we need to gain some momentum going into the conference tournament.”

Claflin holds an even 5-5 division record with only Benedict and Paine remaining on its schedule.

Claflin will be in search of its first 20-win season since the 2008-09 campaign where the Panthers posted a 25-4 record and participated in the NCAA Division II National Tournament. Claflin was eliminated from the regionals, losing to Christian Brothers 72-53 in the second round at Lakeland, Fla.

The Panthers will once again rely on their defense, ranked No. 1 in SIAC at 66.6 points, against Benedict. The unit has held 13 opponents under 65 points this season and is 12-1 in those games.

“We have to get going on all cylinders defensively and put multiple stops together and get into our transition game,” said Jackson.  “Defensively we were very good the first half of the season. I think we maybe loss our focus after having put together that 16 game winning streak.”

The Panthers defense is spearheaded by Jaleel Charles, Austin Lawton and Triston Thompson.

Charles leads the team in rebounding at 8.2 a game and recorded 39 blocked shots, while Lawton is second in the league with 51 blocks to go with 5.5 rebounds.

Triston Thompson is tied for the conference lead in steals at 2.0 per game.

On the offensive side of the basketball, the Panthers are generating 74.3 points per game with a season-high 97 points against Miles College.

Charles and Benjamin “Tre” Williams are the only double-figure scorers for Claflin at 14.6 points and 13.1 points, respectively.

“Tre” Williams has knocked down the most three-pointers on the team at 34 followed by Jordan Jones with 26.

Lawton is next in the scoring for Claflin at 9.2 points a game.

Benedict, who is averaging 81.3 points as team, is led by Brandon Morris at 17.5 points per game and Cairo Brown with 13.3 points.

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