The return of junior guard Ray Croon and the debut of junior guard Ditalion Battle provided a spark for the Kentucky State University men’s basketball team, but it was not enough as they fell short of Benedict College 83-77 on Saturday afternoon at the Exum Center.
“We have to give ourselves opportunities to win games,” said head coach Jamaal Jackson. “Today’s game we had a four-minute stretch in the second half where we played a lot of one-on-one, and they gained a lead on us. If we play our offense for a full 40 minutes and hit our free throws, we can make a strong run at the SIAC west division title with our remaining schedule.”
The Thorobreds (3-11, 2-5) close the 2017 calendar year losing their last four games with just two games remaining against an opponent outside of the SIAC west division with 12 total games left till the conference tournament. The Tigers (11-3, 4-2) have now won three in a row as they wrap up a stretch of six games of their last seven on the road Monday against Central State University.
KSU and BC battled through the day and down the stretch as KSU accounted for two leads changes and seven ties throughout the second half against the visitors. The final tie came with just under three minutes to play in regulation at 72-72 after a made jumper by Croon. The Tigers regained the lead after a made three-point bucket by Jelani Watson-Gayle and proceeded to close out the game on an 11-5 run for the win.
Croon played just three minutes in the opening 20 minutes of action but proceeded to show what he’s capable of, by scoring 19 points in the second half, leading the way for the Thorobreds with 21 points. Saturday’s game was the first action seen by Croon in over a month, when he last played before the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 22 against at Ashland University.
After missing the first half of the season due to injury, Battle made a solid first impression with 12 points in 30 minutes of action, showing in spurts what he can provide the Thorobreds in 2018.
In a spot start, both junior guard Felix Wilson and junior forward David Jelks each played over 25 minutes of action. Wilson accounted for 11 points and five assists, while Jelks added 12 points and seven rebounds.
KSU will have a quick turnaround as they will host Claflin University on New Year’s day at 7:30 pm ET at the Exum Center.
by Eric Mathews