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Panthers hold off No. 25 Centre, 66-61

Ian Thom (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)
Ian Thom (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)

DANVILLE, Ky.—Holding off a late-game surge by No. 25 Centre College, the Birmingham-Southern men's basketball team defeated the Colonels, 66-61, Friday evening in Alumni Gymnasium in Danville, Ky.

The Panthers moved to 8-4 overall and 1-1 in the Southern Athletic Association, winning against Centre on the road for the first time in program history, while the two-time defending conference champion Colonels fell to 9-3 and 0-2 in the SAA in their second straight loss.

After the teams traded three-pointers to start the game, BSC quickly pulled ahead 9-3 by the 16:28 mark, with all but two points coming from sophomore point guard Ian Thom. The Panthers kept the lead until the 10:23 mark when a three-pointer from Sam Gruber put Centre up 17-16 for its first lead of the game. The lead changed hands a couple of times after that point before a three-pointer from freshman Harrison Deneka at the 3:52 mark put the Panthers ahead 27-24, and they would never relinquish the lead again.

The Panthers led 37-28 at the half, and then opened the second half with eight straight points to pull ahead 45-28 by the 15:08 mark for their largest lead of the game. BSC kept Centre at arm's length for much of the remainder of the game. With 3:17 left to play, senior Larry Thomas hit a three-pointer to put the Panthers up 61-50, after which the Colonels scored six straight points to cut it to five with 1:55 left to play. The teams traded baskets before a three from Josh Karsner cut the BSC lead to three, 64-61, with 31 seconds on the clock. BSC was sent to the free throw line three times down stretch, hitting two of the six shots, but the Panthers also held Centre scoreless, despite several three-point chances, to come away with the five-point win.

Thomas led three players in double figures with 13 points, going 5-6 from the field including 2-3 from beyond the arc. Thom and junior Alex Avery also posted 12 points each, while Deneka, in his first career start, led with seven rebounds. Avery and junior Ross Welch had three assists each.

Blake Scinta led Centre with 17 points, while Karsner added 15 and Gruber scored 12 off the bench. Karsner also led with eight boards.

BSC out-shot Centre from the field and three-point range. The Panthers shot 46.8 percent overall and 45.5 percent from beyond the arc, while Centre shot a season-low 35.8 percent overall and 30 percent from long range.

BSC stays on the road this weekend for more SAA action, facing Sewanee on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Sewanee, Tenn.