The Paine College men's basketball team started Saturday night's game against Albany State as if they had no business challenging the Rams for second place in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
By the time the game ended, the Lions had shown they were every bit deserving of holding down the spot, coming back from a 16-point deficit to win 57-53 at Carter Gymnasium.
Paine (9-4, 8-2) moved into second place in the conference, passing Albany State (6-6, 6-2) with the victory.
"You've got to give our guys a lot of credit. They easily could've given up after a first half that was not very good," Paine coach Ronnie Spry said.
"We were very fortunate to come back and win."
The Lions missed 12 of 20 free throws in the first 20 minutes and trailed 28-12 at one point before closing within seven, 32-25, at intermission.
"We weren't making our shots and were horrible at the line," Spry said.
"(Albany State) came in and wanted this game, and they played with a lot of intensity. We played one of our worst halves of basketball all year and were lucky to be down only seven."
Slowly but steadily, Paine crept into striking distance, then began a 12-2 run just past the 8:00 mark to retake the lead at 48-46 with 3 minutes left.
Paine point guard Titus Lucas scored nine of his game-high 17 points in the final 7:40, including a clutch drive and basket with 2 minutes left that gave the Lions the lead for good at 50-49.
The Lions held the Rams scoreless on the next three possessions and turned around their own fortunes at the free-throw line by making seven of their final eight to come away with the victory.
Justin Durham and Chris Jackson each added eight points for Paine, and DeWayne Jones had two huge baskets for the Lions in the closing run.
Frank Pinson led Albany State with 16 points, followed by Tyrone Evans with 11.
Paine visits Morehouse College on Tuesday.
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