In the second game of the afternoon session of the NCAA Division II Elite 8, the Tuskegee Golden Tigers (21-12) faced the nation’s No. 1 team in Division II, the Metropolitan State Roadrunners (32-1) from Denver, Colorado.
With 7:57 remaining in the first half, the Golden Tigers trailed the Roadrunners, 25-18, with Richard Dixon at the line trying to complete a three-point play. With 1:57 left on the scoreboard, the Roadrunners looked like a well-oiled machine, building a 42-25 lead. Keith Winn nailed a three-pointer at 1:22, cutting the Roadrunners’ lead to 14 points, which was the score at halftime.
“Coach told us to keep fighting at halftime,” Keith Winn said. “He told us to keep our heads up. They outrebounded us the first half.”
Camden Foster paced Tuskegee with 8 points, Richard Dixon with 6 points and Elliot Dean added five. The Roadrunners grabbed 26 rebounds to 16 for the Golden Tigers. Metro State had two players in double figures, Brandon Jefferson led with 12 points and Harrison Goodrick netted 10 points. The Golden Tigers were 4-of-8 from the free throw line, while the Roadrunners were 11-of-12. There were three lead changes and the game was tied three times in the first half.
Justin Omogun converted a three-point play at 11:57 to cut the Metro State lead to 18 points, but Jefferson nailed a three-pointer for the Roadrunners, increasing Metro State’s back to 21 points in the second half.
Keith Winn, Justin Omogun, Javier McKinney and Richard Dixon and five other Tuskegee players came off the bench and pumped in 53 points, but it was not enough to overcome the solid performance of the Roadrunners.
“Coach told me to start down low, so I started down low and they had 6-10 guys down there. I am only 6-5 and so I had to come out to the mid-range to get my shots off,” Richard Dixon said.
The Roadrunners held a 20-point advantage (93-73) at 3:57 and went on to defeat the Golden Tigers 106-87.
“We played a great team today, but I am still proud of my young men because we came here for a purpose,” Coach Leon Douglas stated. “We will be back. It is a sad moment for my seniors, but it is a proud moment for my underclassmen.”
The Golden Tigers had five players in double figures, including 18 points by Winn and 16 by Dixon off the bench. Elliot Dean followed with 13 points and Camden Foster and Graham Olatunji added 11 points and 10 points, respectively. Dixon and Dean led the Golden Tigers with six rebounds apiece.
Metro State’s Brandon Jefferson topped all scorers with 26 points, followed by Goodrick Harrison with 17 and Nicholas Kay and Mitch McCarron each with 15 points. Raul Delgado added 12 points and Kay grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Roadrunners converted 34-of-41 free throws, while the Golden Tigers were 12-of-19 from the charity strife. The Roadrunners outrebounded the Golden Tigers 49-35, but the Golden Tigers shot 47.8 percent from the floor to 45.7 percent for the Roadrunners. Metro State maintained the lead throughout the second half.
The Roadrunners (32-1), the nation’s #1 NCAA Division II basketball team, held a 42-28 halftime lead and went on to outscore the Golden Tigers 64-59 in the second half to advance to the semifinals on Thursday night.
Tuskegee, appearing in its fourth NCAA playoff, ended the season with a 21-12 overall record, an SIAC West Division championship, an SIAC Tournament championship, an NCAA South Regional Championship and an appearance in the NCAA II Elite 8 National finals.
“It was a great experience for us,” Camden Foster stated. “I see what it takes to get this far and I see what we need in order to get here again.”
The loss in the NCAA Elite 8 Tournament ended the collegiate playing careers for nine Golden Tiger seniors: Julius Taylor, Elliot Dean, Javier McKinney, Keith Winn, Troy Robinson, Moriah Johnson, Richard Dixon, Kendall Coleman and Adrian Spellman. Graham Olatunji, Kevin May, Camden Foster, Lawrence Freeman, Charles Savoy and Justin Omogun, all with NCAA postseason experience, will return for the Golden Tigers.
Source: Arnold L. Houston, Tuskegee University Athletics