NASHVILLE --- Tennessee State overcame a drought of more than 12 minutes without a second-half field goal to open its regular season with a 72-63 victory over nearby Fisk University Monday night.
The Tigers had apparent control of the game after leading 39-24 at halftime and extending the lead to 16 points on a pair of occasions. However, the Tigers would only score from the free throw line as Fisk began to crawl back into the foul-plagued game.
Fisk would never lead, but came back to tie the game twice, the last time at 54-54 with 5:22 remaining on a pair of free throws by D'Wayne Wells. TSU would respond with a 7-0 run that included a layup by Reiley Ervin with 4:21 left that snapped the long scoreless streak from the field.
"We played well in the first half, but we did not in the second half," said TSU head coach Cy Alexander, who picked up his 299th career victory. "When you play a rivalry game like this, you can throw out the records. Our team must learn to keep its focus."
The game featured 54 total fouls, 38 by Fisk. TSU went to the free throw line 55 times, making 37. Bruce Price was 20-26 and led TSU with 25 points. Clarence Matthews scored 16 and Kareem Grant added 13.
The Tigers were 16-48 from the field, including just 4-18 in the second half for 22 percent. TSU had entered the contest after converting at least 50 percent from the floor in each of its first two exhibition games.
The Tigers had jumped to a 10-1 lead to start the contest and built its largest lead at 32-13 with 3:55 left.
Fisk (1-1) was led by Courtney Ellis' 14 points. Chris Adams added 12 for the Bulldogs.