For the ninth time this season, an opponent made itself feel at home at Carter Gym.
Najee Tolbert scored a team-high 11 points, but it wasn't enough Tuesday night as Fort Valley State defeated Paine, 73-62.
With its eighth loss in its past nine games, Paine (7-17, 6-15) is in danger of falling into last place in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Lions, 4-9 at home, entered Tuesday a half-game ahead of bottom-feeder Tuskegee.
Against Fort Valley State, Paine shot just 36 percent from the field, including a 3-for-18 effort from 3-point range. The Lions struggled out of the gate on the offensive end, scoring 12 points the first 13 minutes.
"That's been one of our problems lately," Paine coach Ron Spry said about his team's slow start. "We just have to keep working and get the right rotation."
Tolbert was the lone Paine player in double figures. He added 12 rebounds and five assists to lead the Lions.
Paine trailed 31-25 at halftime. The Lions pulled within five on a Daniel Walden dunk with 13:50 remaining.
Fort Valley State (10-14, 10-11) responded with a 9-0 run. William Hawes, a former Josey standout, hit a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 51-37 advantage. Hawes finished with nine points.
- In the women's game, Paine allowed its most points in a game this season in its 105-76 loss to Fort Valley State.
The SIAC-leading Lady Wildcats improved to 20-4 overall, 19-0 in league play. The Lady Lions (5-18, 4-15) lost their fifth in a row.
Tiffany Beverly led Paine with 16 points, while Brittany Pevey added 14. LaKeisha Bell and Shanee' Butler each had 13 points.
Fort Valley State's Takesha Riggs shot 14-for-22 from the field for a game-high 33 points. Shekiya Tarpkins, the reigning SIAC Player of the Week, added 15.
Fort Valley State, the league's top scoring offense, tallied eight points the first 35 seconds of the game, went up 12-0 and never trailed.
Paine cut the deficit to seven at halftime but was outscored 55-33 after intermission.
"An experienced team would've been like 'OK, we took their best shot,' " Lady Lions coach Terence Palmer said.
"An inexperienced team was waiting on that next shot."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.