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Benedict ends 25-year title drought

Posted on Sun, Feb. 19, 2006, The State Newspaper

Benedict ends 25-year title drought
Tigers hit 19 of 23 second-half shots to avenge loss to Stillman, win SIAC
Special Correspondent

Benedict College rallied from a dismal first-half performance Saturday to pull off a 75-65 victory against Stillman that clinched the Tigers’ first Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season championship in 25 years.

The Senior Night win kept the Tigers unbeaten at the Benjamin E. Mays Human Resources Center this season and avenged their only conference setback.

Benedict (20-4, 18-1) trailed 33-25 at halftime while shooting 25 percent from the field. But the Tigers dominated after the break by changing the tempo of the game.

Benedict had nine steals and hit 19 of 23 shots from the field in the second half to outscore Stillman 50-32.

“Our plan was to stay close in the first half and then make the adjustments we needed at halftime,” Tigers coach Fred Watson said. “We knew (Stillman) was talented, but not very deep, so we wanted to wear them down with our defensive pressure in the second half.”

Taiwan Byrd, Leslie Brown, Joel Brown, Malik McCullough and Joshua Obiajunwa all made huge contributions to Benedict’s first league championship at the NCAA Division II level since the 1980-81 season. The Tigers won nine consecutive conference titles in the 1990s while playing at the NAIA level.

Byrd led the Tigers with 18 points. He scored 14 of those points in the second half, when he went 6-for-6 from the field.

Leslie Brown scored all 15 of his points in the second half, making all six of his shots. Joel Brown scored nine of his 12 points after the break.

McCullough and Obiajunwa made key plays with less than four minutes to go that broke open what had been a back-and-forth affair.

McCullough hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to stake the Tigers to a 67-61 lead. Obiajunwa set up both McCullough 3s with passes from the low post. The 6-for-6 forward then blocked a shot and found Byrd for a layup that gave Benedict a 69-61 lead with 2:17 to go.

“I’m real comfortable shooting in that situation,” said McCullough, who scored eight of his nine points in the second half.

Obiajunwa finished with eight points, eight rebounds and four assists.

“You can talk about all the X’s and O’s you want, but what it really came down to was what team wanted it more,” Byrd said. “This team beat us bad (70-53), and we just weren’t going to let them do it again at our house.”

Source: The State Newspaper

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