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Centre men hold off Austin 56-52, advance to conference semifinals

The Centre men's basketball team will move on to the semifinals of the SCAC Tournament after holding off an Austin comeback to capture a 56-52 win Friday in Birmingham, Ala.

The Colonels appeared to have the game well in hand, leading by as many as 16 points on four occasions in the second half, but a cold shooting stretch would allow Austin to get back in the game.

Centre was leading 45-31 just inside of 11 minutes to play when Austin went on an 18-3 run, briefly taking back the lead at 49-48 with 3:23 to play. During the eight minute stretch, Centre managed just a 3-pointer from Bryon Ellis (Russell Springs, Ky.) as the team went 1-for-8 from the field and 0-for-3 at the line. 

Just as quickly as they had lost the lead though, the Colonels were able to take it back for good on the other end on the other end on a layup by Chris Taylor (Louisville, Ky.) who led the team with 13 points off the bench. Centre was able to force turnovers on the next two Austin possessions and go up by three on a layup by Greg Ross (Cincinnati, Ohio) with 1:25 to play. 

After Ross blocked an Austin shot, Donovan Whiteside (Knoxville, Tenn.) buried a pair of free throws to put Centre up 54-49 with 31 seconds to play. Austin's Walter Phillips made a 3-pointer, but Whiteside buried two more free throws to get the margin back to two possessions with just 10 seconds remaining. Those free throws were key for a Centre team that struggled at the line, shooting an uncharacteristic 8-for-21 from the line after coming in as the top free throw shooting team in the conference at 76 percent.

In the opening moments, the game had gone back and forth with Centre falling behind 8-0 early, then bouncing back to tie the game at nine. Neither team was able to gain a significant advantage until a pair of Jeff Mullaney (Louisville, Ky.) 3-pointers sparked a 13-0 Colonels run that put them up 32-16 and helped them take a 32-20 lead to halftime.

Taylor was the only Colonel in double figures, though Ross and Collin Lopez (Louisville, Ky.) each had nine points, and Mullaney chipped in eight. Ross had a game-high eight rebounds. Austin's Antione Thompson led all scorers with 18 points, scoring 10 of those in the team's second half run. 

Overall, Centre shot 41.5 percent (22-of-53) while Austin was 36.5 percent (19-of-52) from the field. Austin shot 36.4 percent (4-of-11) from outside to Centre's 22.2 percent (4-of-18) and held a 41-35 edge on the boards.

Centre improves its overall record to 17-8 with the win. The Colonels will now move on to a 2 p.m. Saturday semifinal matchup with Birmingham Southern, which defeated Dallas 82-59 on Friday.