Officially tipping off the 2015-16 season on Wednesday night, the Augusta University Jaguars couldn't overcome the Claflin Panthers in a 66-62 road loss.
Augusta (0-1) opened the year at non-conference Claflin (2-0) and senior Tommy Williams, juniors Keshun Sherrill and Keith Crump, and freshmen Deane Williams and Aaron Byrd made the start for the Jags.
Sherrill led all scorers with 18 points and T. Williams recorded 16 points and five rebounds. Byrd notched eight points and four boards with one steal and an assist and Crump produced seven rebounds, six points, and four assists.
Freshman Tyvez Monroe had eight points and six boards in his 18 minutes off the bench, while D. Williams had six points and six boards with a lone block.
Augusta posted a 41.2 field-goal percentage to Claflin's 37.7, but the Jags shot 23.5 percent (4-17) from the three-point line and posted a 69.6 free-throw percentage to the Panthers' 81.5. The Jags outrebounded Claflin 38-28, but committed five more turnovers that resulted in 15 points.
A Claflin put-back dunk opened scoring on the night, but D. Williams and T. Williams hit back-to-back layups for the Jags to take the lead in the first two minutes. After Augusta led 4-2 at the 17:39 mark in the first half on a T. Williams layup, Claflin jumped to a nine-point advantage on an Elijah Bradley basket and didn't let go of the lead until the 1:12 mark in the second half when freshman Aaron Byrd tied the game at 60-all.
After a cold start, Keshun Sherrill hit a jumper for his sixth point that cut it to a seven-point deficit just under five minutes in the opening half. Down 26-20 after fMonroe hit a free throw, Augusta went within three on a deep ball from Sherrill. It was a two-possession game in the closing minutes of the opening half, but the Panthers retook an eight-point lead at the whistle.
Sherrill had nine in the first half and three assists and Monroe put up seven off the bench. A three pointer from Sherrill started the second-half scoring and the Jaguars made it 40-39 after he hit a jumper at the 12:13 mark. The Panthers stayed ahead during the Augusta comeback entering the final minutes of the game and never returned the lead to the Jags.
Junior Keith Crump's jumper pushed the Jags closer and a pair of free throws from Byrd put the Jags within a basket. Byrd stole the ball on the next possession and made it to the free-throw line where he hit both to keep Augusta alive under two minutes.
With 1:50 remaining in regulation, D. Williams committed a foul and sent the Panthers to the line for a successful two points to go up 60-56. Out of a timeout on the next possession, Head Coach Dip Metress drew up the offense and got an alley-oop dunk from T. Williams off a Sherrill assist and Byrd got back to the charity stripe where he tied the game at 60-60.
An Augusta offensive foul gave the ball back to Claflin where they hit a layup out of a timeout and eventually took a 66-62 win over the Jaguars.
The Jaguars host rival Paine College Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. for the 2015-16 home opener in Christenberry Fieldhouse.
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