Geno Green posted a game-high 24 points, but it wasn't enough as the Lions fell, 80-70, at Carter Gym.
A Paine squad that entered shooting 39 percent from the floor knocked down 24 of 48 shots. But the Lion defense found difficulty slowing down the Panthers' Anthony Pigram and Eric Salley in the second half - they combined for 29 points after intermission to help give Claflin (13-8 , 13-7 ) its fourth consecutive win.
The Panthers are trying to get back to the Division II Tournament after advancing to the Sweet Sixteen last season. Claflin likely will need to win the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament to get back to postseason play.
"This is a game we needed to win," Claflin coach Ron Woodard said. "We're trying to get back to where we can contend for an SIAC Championship."
Pigram, Salley and Michael Jones each scored 20 points to lead the Panthers. Salley posted just three field goals in the second half, but two were spectacular. Just after halftime, Salley leaped high, grabbed Edward Green's missed jumper in mid-air and dunked it home to give Claflin an eight-point lead.
Paine made a pair of runs and took a one-point lead on Robert Johnson's driving lay-in with 8:27 remaining. But Salley keyed an 8-0 run with an alley-oop dunk off a Pigram pass.
Then, Pigram swished consecutive 3-pointers at the shot-clock buzzer. Claflin led 71-62.
Green shot 9 for 15 from the field and added a team-high seven rebounds and two blocks to lead Paine. Thomas Broughton had 16 points.
"We need at least three players scoring in double figures," Spry said. "We didn't get that tonight."
Like Claflin, Paine (7-15, 7-12) will have to win the SIAC Tournament if it's going to make a Division II Tournament appearance this season.
"You want to get some momentum going into the tournament," Spry said. "All of the games we're playing are against really good teams."