As he enters his silver anniversary at Paine College, Ron Spry still mulls over numbers from last season.
Numbers such as the 845 free throws his opponents shot.
"We have to keep people off the line," the coach said. "That's a lot of free throws for 28 games."
Paine's men will look to prevent their opponents from making too many trips to the foul stripe in tonight's season opener. The Lions play host to Georgia College & State (2-1) at 7 p.m. at Carter Gym.
After tonight's contest, Paine hits the road for six games during the next three weeks.
"These games are crucial at the beginning," said Spry, who sports a 452-270 career record in 24 seasons. "You get a feel for where your team is at."
The Lions have nine players returning , including senior guard Nate Lewis, a preseason first-team all- Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection.
During his junior season, he finished first in the league in steals (2.64), second in free-throw percentage (.774) and sixth in scoring (15.8).
"He gives us experience and leadership," Spry said. "We're expecting him to do what he normally does come out and play well."
Lewis was the only Lion to average double digits in scoring as the team finished last in the SIAC in scoring (63.2) and field-goal percentage (.380). Paine did, however, hold opponents to a league-low 65 points a game.
Junior forward Lamario Latson will be looked upon to continue his play from a season ago. He shot a team-best 52 percent from the field and added 6.5 rebounds a contest.
Paine played in its share of tight games last season, but found itself on the losing end because of poor defensive play inside the paint and too many fouls.
But Spry said he expects the team to gain strength in those areas with improved play from 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Chris Jackson and 6-11 junior center Danta' Quinn
"We have to limit our opponents' ability to get to the free-throw line," Spry said. "We've got to play extremely good defense."
Returning for the Paine women are 13 players off last season's 16-11 squad. Junior forward Kisha Lucette, a preseason all-SIAC second -team member, led the Lady Lions in scoring (10.6) and rebounding (7.7). Lucette also led the SIAC in field-goal percentage (.527) last season.
Sophomore guard Stephanie Reed finished second in the league in 3 -point field-goal percentage (.412) and fourth in steals (1.94).
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.