The Centre men's basketball team advanced to the finals of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament for the seventh straight year with a 77-58 win over host school Birmingham Southern on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.
It was the second Centre victory in three meetings this season with the Panthers, who came into the semifinal game ranked No. 9 in the nation and on a 43-game home winning streak. The teams had split two regular season contests with Centre winning 72-65 on Dec. 16 in Danville and BSC taking the rematch 81-64 on Feb. 10 in Birmingham.
Senior Greg Ross (Cincinnati, Ohio) led the way for the Colonels with game-highs of 28 points and nine rebounds while making 11 of his 13 attempts from the field.
Ross wasn't the only Colonel who was hot on the afternoon as the team shot a blistering 63 percent (25-of-40) from the field and 56 percent (9-of-16) from 3-point range while holding Birmingham Southern to 30 percent (18-of-60) overall and just 18 percent (6-of-33) from outside. Centre also held a 35-28 rebounding advantage, and after some uncharacteristic struggles from the free throw line in a quarterfinal win over Austin on Friday, the team bounced back with a perfect 18-of-18 effort at the line Saturday.
Centre never trailed in the contest after opening up a 4-0 lead on baskets by Ross and Bryon Ellis (Russell Springs, Ky.). The Colonels gradually extended their lead throughout the half, eventually going up by as many as 11 when a Josh Karsner (Frankfort, Ky.) 3-pointer made the score 23-12 with 4:50 to go in the half.
After Centre took a 35-26 lead to halftime, the Colonels began to distance themselves from Birmingham Southern on a 9-0 run that increased the margin to 49-32. The closest the Panthers would get the rest of the way came on a Larry Thomas 3-pointer to make the score 51-40 with 7:58 to go. Ross immediately answered with seven straight points to give Centre its biggest lead at 58-40 with five minutes remaining, and the Colonels wouldn't be threatened the rest of the way.
Collin Lopez (Louisville, Ky.) followed Ross in the scoring column with 17 points while Mullaney added 11. Thomas finished as Birmingham Southern's top scorer with 12 off the bench.
The victory improves Centre's record to 18-8 on the season and gives the Colonels the opportunity to capture their fourth straight SCAC Tournament championship tomorrow at 1 p.m. Centre will face Trinity, a 74-66 winner over Rhodes in Saturday's second semifinal game.