Miles is arguably the best defensive team in the country, currently leading the NCAA Division II in 3-point field goal defense percentage while sitting second in defensive field goal percentage and scoring defense. So in most games, it is not a matter of if the Golden Bears are going to shut an opponent down, but when.
The timing of the shutdown could not have been any better on Wednesday night when Miles hosted Savannah State. Trailing by one in the middle of the second half, the Golden Bears threw a six-minute shutout to take control of the game in an eventual 65-56 win over the Tigers at Knox-Windham Gymnasium. The victory was the ninth straight for Miles (17-3, 12-2), who now own a 1 1/2 game lead over Tuskegee for the top spot in the SIAC Western Division.
When Savannah State (7-11, 7-8 SIAC East) got a 3-pointer from Marcus Scott with 12:41 left in the game, it had taken a 43-42 lead over Miles, which at that point had not gotten more than five points clear of the Tigers at any point of the game. But after allowing SSU to shoot 50 percent from the field in the first half and 44 percent early in the second, Miles turned the screws defensively and put an abrupt stop to any hopes for an upset.
Jelani Watson-Gayle answered Scott's 3-pointer with one of his own to put Miles back in front. The Golden Bears would increase their lead by attacking the basket for high percentage shots, scoring on layup, short jumpers and running one-handers in the lane. Meanwhile, the Tigers began stacking scoreless possessions, often without shooting the ball. Five turnovers and three missed shots from the field allowed Miles to score 10 consecutive points, the last two on an Avery Brown layup with just under eight minutes to go that gave the Golden Bears a 52-43 advantage.
Brown was extremely active against the Tigers. He set career highs in field goal attempts and baskets made, going 11-of-24 and scoring a game-high 24 points. His offensive rebound and putback with 5:49 remaining gave Miles its biggest lead, 57-46. SSU continued to battle and got as close as six points on two occasions. But the Tigers could not overcome the six-minute blackout imposed by the Miles defense as the Golden Bears moved to 10-1 at home this season.
Scott had 21 points and 7 rebounds and was the only person to score in double figures for Savannah State. Braeden Stewart scored 11 points and grabbed 6 rebounds while Watson-Gayle added 10 points for Miles, which travels to Central State on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.