For once, Paine didn't have to make a desperate second-half comeback.
The Lions defense shut down Fort Valley State and Paine rolled to a 72-63 win at Carter Gym on Monday night.
In the women's game, Fort Valley State's Terri Mitchell and Jamie McDonald combined for 24 of the Lady Wildcats' first 26 points as Fort Valley State bolted to a 26-9 first-half lead. Fort Valley State led 51-23 at the half.
Fort Valley State (15-2, 6-0) kept pouring it on and defeated the Lady Lions 91-46.
With an intense man-to-man defense, Paine's men (7-7, 6-2 SIAC) held the Wildcats (7-9, 3-4) to just 22-of-57 shooting from the floor, 3-of-18 from 3-point range.
Instead of having to make another comeback, the Lions took control from the beginning. With the score tied at 4-all, Christopher Neal knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner, got fouled on the play and converted the four-point play to put the Lions up 8-4. Paine's Maurice Wright capped a 13-0 run with a 13-foot runner in the lane that extended the Lions' lead to 15-4 with 11:32 left in the first half.
"Chris came through really well for us tonight," Wright said. "He ran the ball well and made some layups. It's always good when we can run the ball."
Tracy Kitchens hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut Paine's lead to 15-7. But Dreyveel Cunningham hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Mac Young went coast-to-coast to give the Lions a 23-9 lead with 9:39 left in the first half.
The Paine defense held Fort Valley State to just 9-of-27 shooting from the field in the first half and built a 35-21 halftime lead.
Early in the second half, the Wildcats started to make a little run. Zedrick Smith made a two-handed, fast-break dunk that cut Paine's lead to 47-33.
But Neal and Wright combined for eight points during a Paine 8-0 run that gave the Lions a 55-34 lead with 11:44 remaining.
The Wildcats went on a 13-1 run to cut Paine's lead to 69-61 with 39 seconds left, but the Lions' lead was just too insurmountable.
"Our goal was to hold them under 60 points. We were just three off that," Wright said. "Our defense sparks our offense and we executed very well."
Neal led Paine with 19 points, while Wright and Cunningham had a pair of double-doubles. Wright had 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Cunningham had 11 points and 10 boards. Kitchens led the Wildcats with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Paine's women (1-12, 1-7), who had 41 turnovers in the game, were led by Dameka Leslie's 10 points. Mitchell had a team-high 25 points for the Lady Wildcats, while McDonald had 19.
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