FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With four minutes remaining in its NCAA D2 contest against West Alabama, Tuskegee looked poised to pull off the upset, still clinging to what was once a double-digit lead.
But down the stretch, the Golden Tigers were unable to get the big shots when they needed them. Ultimately, No. 2-seeded West Alabama was able to hold No. 7-seed Tuskegee to just one field goal over the final four minutes to earn the come-from-behind 70-64 win in the opening round of the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament at Rick Case Arena.
The Tigers (27-5), who won the Gulf South Conference, will advance to the semifinals. The Golden Tigers, who won the SIAC Western Division crown, finish the season with a 20-9 mark.
Tuskegee found its stride midway through the opening half, breaking open a close game. Down by two points with nine and a half minutes left in the half, Martez Jones converted a three-point play to put the Golden Tigers in front. That started a run of 14 consecutive points. Gregg Boyd and D’Anthony Pennington hit consecutive 3-pointers and Pennington added another three-point play before Jones scored again for a 28-14 advantage with 5:28 to go before the half.
The Golden Tigers shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and when Steve Dulley scored with 1:05 left, the lead was 13 points. Going into the half, the margin was 37-27 and Tuskegee was feeling good going into the break.
UWA, though, came out of the half and went right to chipping away at the deficit. Twice in the first 10 minutes of the final half, the Tigers came to within two points. But each time, Dulley drained a 3-ball to give Tuskegee some space.
A 3-pointer by Shardarrion Allen with 7:19 left finally put UWA on top 55-54 but four straight TU free throws quickly erased the lead. When Jones scored with 4:06 to go, the Tigers were still up 60-58. But from there, the shots that had fallen earlier in the game came up short. Tuskegee missed six of its final seven shots from the field as West Alabama pulled away in the final minutes.
Allen had 21 points and C.J. Melton had 11 points and 10 rebounds to pace West Alabama. Dulley had 15 points, Jones added 14 points and Pennington and Boyd each had 10 points for Tuskegee.