BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The Birmingham-Southern men's basketball team held on for an exciting 81-78 overtime win against Millsaps on Sunday afternoon in Bill Battle Coliseum in the conference opener for both teams.
The Panthers moved to 5-6 overall and 1-0 in the Southern Athletic Association, and the Majors fell to 1-10 overall and 0-1 in the SAA.
BSC led for the first few minutes of the game before the Majors came back and took over the lead, going up by as much as nine, 26-17, by using a 22-7 run from the 16:20 mark to the 9:56 mark. The Panthers were able to cut the lead back to one, 37-36, before a three-pointer by Quinn Atkinson put the Majors up by four, 40-36, at the half. Millsaps shot well in the first half, going 17-27 (.630) from the field and 5-8 (.625) from three-point range.
The Panthers opened the second half with a layup by senior Alex Avery and a three-pointer by senior Ross Welch to put them in the lead by one, and used an 18-5 run to go up by nine, 54-45, by the 14:15 mark. Millsaps chipped away at the lead, cutting it to one at the 6:35 and 4:35 marks before tying it up 64-64 on an Atkinson layup at the 2:55 mark. Sophomore Harrison Deneka nailed a three-pointer to put the Panthers back in the lead, and, after a layup by Blake Jones, a Welch jumper put BSC up 69-66 with 15 seconds remaining. The Panthers sent Atkinson to the free throw line down the stretch, however, fouling him on a three-pointer, and he made all three to send the game to overtime.
The teams traded layups to open the overtime period, and then traded free throws for the fifth tie of the game, 72-72, with 3:07 remaining. An Avery layup put BSC in the lead before an Atkinson jumper tied it up for the sixth and final time with 1:50 left to play. Welch sank a three-pointer after that and, after a Millsaps layup, he hit another big three to put the Panthers up by four, 80-76, with 18 seconds on the clock. Atkinson made a layup to cut it to two and the Majors sent Welch to the free throw line with seven seconds left, where he made on of two to put BSC up by three. Atkinson shot a three-pointer at the buzzer, but it was off the mark, and the Panthers came away with the victory.
Welch finished with 24 points on 8-14 shooting, including 7-13 from beyond the arc. Avery was impressive with 16 points on 5-10 shooting and 16 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Deneka also added 18 points on 7-12 shooting. Avery and junior Ian Thom led with five assists each.
Atkinson posted a game-high 28 points on 11-16 shooting for the Majors.
The Panthers are on the road for their next three games, traveling to face Berry next Friday, Jan. 8, at 8 p.m. ET, then Oglethorpe next Sunday, Jan. 10, at 3 p.m. ET. BSC will take on Millsaps on the road on Jan. 16 at 5 p.m. before returning home to face in-state non-conference rival Huntingdon on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m.