South Carolina State opened the season with a dominating win over Claflin University, Friday at Tullis Arena.
The Bulldogs (1-0) held off a feisty Panther (0-1) team 81-62 to earn their second straight Garden City Classic win over Claflin.
SC State started the game at a slow pace jumping out to a five point lead, 31-26 off a layup by sophomore forward Luka Radovic at the 6:09 mark. Sophomore forward Marcellus Dunn nailed a jumper with 5:16 left in the half to cut the lead to one, 30-31.
Freshman forward Darryl Palmer's three-pointer with 2:22 left extended the Bulldogs lead to five, 40-35. Claflin would not be denied after freshman forward Patrick Bendegue tossed in a jumper with a 1:02 left to cut the lead to three, 40-37.
The Bulldogs took a 40-37 lead into halftime.
In the second half, South Carolina State took full control jumping out an 11-point lead, 66-55 off a layup by senior point guard Khalif Toombs with 5:57 left. Palmer nailed his third three-pointer of the night to give the Bulldogs a 15-point lead, 74-60.
JUCO transfer Matthew Hezekiah had a power night converting on a layup plus the foul to push SC State's lead to 21 points, with 0:34 seconds left in regulation. The Bulldogs held off a rallying Panther team, 81-62 to capture their first win of the season.
Freshman forward Darryl Palmer posted a game-high 21 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks to capture the Garden City Most Outstanding Player on the men's side. Senior guard Khalif Toombs added 17 points, five assists, while junior guard Louie Adams chipped in 14 points and six assists in the victory.
Hezekiah finished the game with the double-double of the night with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
SC State finished with a career low nine turnovers, while hitting out-rebounding Claflin 45-32 on the night. Free-throws seemed to be the deciding factor down the stretch with the Bulldogs shot 15-of-26, while the Panthers were 5-of-20. South Carolina State out-rebounded Claflin 45-32.
Claflin was led by Marcellus Dunn with 20 points, while David Glover added 10 in the loss.
The Bulldogs return on to action on Monday when they host Kennesaw State in a non-conference matchup, beginning at 7:30 p.m.