TAMPA - Marcus William's 3-point basket with less than two minutes left broke a 55-55 tie and proved to be the deciding factor as Paine College fell to Valdosta State 62-57 in the NCAA South Region Basketball Tournament.
Williams, who scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the first five minutes, had been kept in check for most of the second half until he slipped off a high screen and found himself open for the go-ahead basket.
"Our man anticipated a switch," said Paine coach Ron Spry. "He shouldn't have switched. We knew we had to watch for him (Williams) because he was their best shooter."
Trailing the entire first half, the Lions battled back behind strong defense, holding Valdosta State to just five field goals in the final 16 minutes. A Colin Jamerson 3-pointer gave Paine a brief lead with 10 minutes remaining.
However, the guard went just 2-of-9 in the first half and 4-of-17 for the game, scoring 15 points.
"I wanted to come out and knock a few down to get into a groove," Jamerson said. "But they denied me the ball and made it difficult for me to come off screens. I only played one half of basketball tonight."
Heading into the game, Spry said he felt the Lions would have a chance if they could keep the Blazers off the foul line and control the boards.
The Lions out-rebounded their opponent 46-35, including a 17-7 margin on the offensive boards. They also attempted 13 more field goals.
"If we could have capitalized on those shots and rebounds, it would've been a different game. I always tell my players to take advantage of opportunities, and tonight we didn't."
Valdosta State went to the foul line five times in the final six minutes making seven of 10. Paine made just one trip in the same time.
But still they had one last opportunity to tie at 60, but a crucial non-call occured when guard Yari Scott appeared to be fouled attempting a 3-pointer.
"I thought contact was made," said Spry, who was sitting on the side of the basket when it was attempted. "The ref could've just as easily called it the other way. Maybe he didn't see it from his angle."
Scott led the Lions with 22 points but shot just 8-of-27.
Valdosta State advances to play Henderson State at 5 p.m. today in Round 2.