No. 25 Centre escapes with 74-72 win over Pioneers in season opener

No. 25 Centre escapes with 74-72 win over Pioneers in season opener

DANVILLE, Ky.—Centre College held off a late run by the Transylvania University men's basketball team, escaping with a 74-72 win over the Pioneers in front of a packed crowd at Alumni Gymnasium Wednesday night.

The Colonels pushed their lead to 63-48 before the Pioneers put together a strong run that closed the margin to 65-58 with five minutes remaining, after the Pioneer defensive unit forced several Colonel turnovers and fouls.

With 4:20 remaining, freshman guard Sam Sergeant forced a steal near midcourt and rushed down the court, leading the fast break before dumping the ball off to junior forward Parker Stansberry for the layup and closing the gap to only five points and forcing a Centre timeout.

The Pioneers would turn to a press in the late stages of the game, generating ball pressure and sporadic play from Centre. In turn, Transylvania knocked down several clutch shots, and a three-pointer from the corner by sophomore guard Alex Jones tightened the Centre lead to only two points.

Centre answered knocking down and open three-pointer in transition. The next trip down the court, after a brief scrum on the ball, Centre was awarded the ball on alternating possession. After a Pioneer foul with 1:18 left, Centre went to the line and knocked down one of two free throws to take a 73-67 lead.

Sergeant hit another three-point shot closing the gap to 73-70, before senior guard Tommy Sirkin forced a steal with 30 seconds remaining and head coach Brian Lane called a timeout to set up the offense with 10 seconds left to play.

Off the inbounds, Sirkin was fouled and sunk both his free throws, putting the Pioneers within one point with six seconds remaining. Transy fouled immediately as Centre converted on only one free throw attempt. The Pioneers rebounded the miss and pushed the ball past midcourt and Lane called his final timeout of the game. On the inbounds pass, Sergeant took a long range three-point shot for the win, but was unable to connect as time expired.

The game was close early on, as the score was tied at 20 with 10:07 remaining in the half. Neither team stretched its lead to more than six points until a three-ball from Centre's Mike Geegan capped a 17-4 run, giving Centre its biggest lead of the half. The Pioneers would respond with a run of their own, outscoring Centre 10-2 over the last 3:25 of the half.

Transylvania battled, however, keeping the game within reach. While Centre jumped out to a 13 point lead with 2:42 remaining in the half, Sirkin and Jones pulled down defensive rebounds and pushed the ball quickly up court, netting easy buckets for the Pioneers.

Centre landed a flurry of six three-pointers in the first half, but Pioneers held their own entering the locker room at half facing only a seven point deficit, 39-32. The Pioneers posted a 4-for-9 shooting effort first half from behind-the-arc.

Transylvania was led in scoring by Sergeant, who scored 18 points in his collegiate debut. Jones led the Pioneers in rebounds and assists, recording seven and four respectively while also pouring in 11 points. Williams provided an offensive surge for Transy, scoring 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting.

With the loss, the Pioneers drop to 0-1 on the season. They will travel to Nashville on Saturday for a matchup against Lipscomb. Saturday's game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.