Claflin meets Johnson C. Smith in 2019 CIAA Tournament

Charlotte, N.C. – The Claflin University men’s basketball team will open play in their first-ever Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Championship Tournament on Wednesday (Feb. 27) against Johnson C. Smith University at the Bojangles’ Coliseum.

Tip-off for the opening round matchup is 10 a.m.

Claflin will face a Johnson C. Smith University team that advanced in the tournament on the strength of a game-winning shot in overtime from Roddric Ross. In the extra period, Ross hit a three-pointer with 2.6 seconds left, lifting Johnson C. Smith past Chowan University 77-74 in Monday’s opening round.

The Golden Bulls erased a ten-point deficit in the final 4:44 of regulation as Ross scored 11 of his team-high 22 points in sending the game into an extra session.

The Golden Bulls improved to 9-17 on the season with the win.

“I’m excited for my team and the institution,” head coach Ricky Jackson said.  “I’m also excited to be able to lead Claflin men’s basketball into this historical moment.”

Claflin will bring an even record at 13-13 in the game with Johnson C. Smith, as the Panthers finished regular season strong. In the final seven games, Claflin was one of the hottest CIAA teams with a 6-1 record, highlighted by a five-game winning streak. The only dark spot for Claflin during that span came in a loss to Livingstone College 77-62 (Feb. 18).

Claflin and Johnson C. Smith met twice during the regular season with each team winning at their respective places.

In the first outing in Charlotte (Jan. 28), Nenad Milenkovic came off the bench to hit the game-winning basket with 29 seconds left as Johnson C. Smith edged the Panthers 64-63.

The second encounter (Feb. 11) went in favor of Claflin as Danny Brown poured in a career-high 29 points and Austin Lawton contributed a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds, for an 87-78 win at Tullis Arena.

The victory was Claflin first over a Johnson C. Smith team since joining the CIAA on July 1, 2018. The overall series record now stands at 3-1 in favor of Johnson C. Smith.

“In order for us to be successful in this game and in the tournament, we’ve got to play solid defense and make shots,” said Jackson.

Leading the Panthers in battle against the Golden Bulls will be Lawton, Brown and Triston Thompson. The trio accounted for 56.2 percent (70 points) of Claflin offensive output during the regular season. Lawton is averaging 13.4 points and 6.7 rebounds followed by Brown at 13.2 points with a team-high 46 three-pointers, and Thompson at 12.4 points to go with 4.1 assists.

Johnson C. Smith is led by Cayse Minor and Ross at 17.0 points, respectively.

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