After picking up a signature win at Benedict in January, Paine College shot to the top of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Afterward, the Lions began a free fall they haven’t been able to stop. Paine coach Jimmy Link still is searching for answers.
“We just can’t get it going right now,” Link said. “I don’t know what it is. We’re trying to regroup. We tell our guys every day to keep fighting and keep working. What it is, I really don’t know.”
Despite holding the league’s top player in check Saturday, Paine struggled on offense in the second half and fell to Benedict, 64-55, at Richmond Academy.
Paine has lost four in a row and seven of its past eight to fall to 12-12 overall, 11-11 in league play. The Lions close with home games against LeMoyne-Owen (7:30 p.m., Monday) and Claflin (3 p.m., Saturday) before playing in the league tournament in two weeks.
Paine never got on track in the second half Saturday and scored its second-fewest points of the season.
Link said he didn’t want to use it as an excuse for his team missing open looks, but he pointed out his players have no place to work on their shooting during the day with the renovation of Paine’s gym. The Lions hold team practices at 8 p.m. at Josey High School.
“We don’t get to shoot every day,” Link said. “That’s part of it. We don’t get a lot of reps.”
After James Devlin converted a three-point play for Paine to tie the game at 46 with 6:08 remaining, the game slipped away from the Lions. Rickie Jackson responded with a dunk and free throw on the other end. Later, David Brailsford canned an 18-foot jumper for Benedict. After two Jackson free throws, Antrjuan Albright followed with a layup. With their 9-0 run, the Tigers landed the knockout blow, up 55-46 with three minutes left.
“What it boils down to is we couldn’t get it done when should have,” said Paine forward Geno Green, who led the Lions with 22 points. “We could’ve capitalized a lot better and ended it a lot better than we did. I feel we could’ve done better. I feel we will do better in the future.”
Marcus Goode, the league’s top scorer and rebounder, had a pedestrian day for him. The Benedict center, who played just 21 minutes, recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds.