The officiating crew assigned to Monday night's SIAC showdown between Paine College and Kentucky State certainly had their hands full.
With a total of 63 fouls handed out, Paine coach Ron Spry knew his team's fortunes would come down to their sometimes erratic free-throw shooting. The Lions had their chances from the line in the closing moments but couldn't cash in, falling 77-74 to the Thoroughbreds before a raucous crowd at steamy Carter Gymnasium.
"That's been one of our weaknesses," Spry said of the Lions problems from the line. "When you're shooting around 55, 60 percent as a team, it's got to hurt."
None of the misses hurt more than the two by Paine freshman Christopher Neal with 27 seconds remaining.
With Kentucky State clinging to a one-point lead, Neal couldn't convert twice from the line, while Kentucky State's Corey Dumphord, the nation's leading scorer in Division II averaging 28 points per game, hit both his free throws at the other end with 23 seconds left to ice the victory for the Thoroughbreds.
The Paine women also suffered a similar fate, dropping their eighth straight, 64-52, to the Lady Thoroughbreds.
The Lady Lions (1-15, 1-9 SIAC) trailed 37-26 at halftime and never recovered, despite a game-high 16 points by Tonashia Lavergne, and 14 points and a game-high 16 boards from Mary Singleton.
In a tight men's contest with eight ties and 20 lead changes, Paine (8-9, 6-5 SIAC) sealed its fate by going 10-for-23 from the line in the second half, including 4-for-10 in the final 4:09.
The Thoroughbreds fared much better, hitting 30 of 42 free throws, including 11 of 17 in the second half.
"We got into foul trouble early and that affected the way we played defense," Spry said. "They (KSU) went to the line (25) times in the first half but we still managed to trail by just one point at halftime. But when you've got guys in foul trouble in the second half, it makes it difficult for you to do anything."
Hephzibah product Mac Young led the Lions with 20 points and eight rebounds but, playing with four fouls, was held scoreless for the final 8:45.
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