Danville, Ky. – The Transylvania men's basketball team cultivated a 15-point halftime lead, but the Centre College Colonels came from behind in the second half to clinch a 79-71 win against the visiting Pioneers at Alumni Gymnasium on Monday night.
Senior Alex Jones had a scintillating 15-point first half, but the Colonels raged back with a 17-1 run to open the second half and seize momentum that would boost their performance for the rest of a tightly contested game.
The Pioneers shocked the Colonels to open up the first half, jetting out to a 20-7 lead against an ice-cold home team as Jones spurred on the Transylvania attack which thrived in the open floor and forced the Colonels into foul trouble.
Sharp defense and consistent rebounding by the Pioneers stymied the Colonels into 24 percent first half shooting, while the Pioneers shot a more sensible 40 percent from the field. The Colonels were plagued by 0-for-6 shooting from the 3-point line, while the Pioneers were marginally better from outdoors, shooting 2-for-10 from the arc courtesy of freshman guard Spencer McKinney's two triples. The first half was a poignant performance from McKinney, who made his Danville homecoming after completing a prolific playing career at Danville High School this past spring.
Behind McKinney and Jones's 26 combined first half points, the Pioneers claimed a 34-19 lead against the Colonels.
Mirroring the Colonels' first half struggles, the Pioneers' offense went cold for the first six minutes of the second half. Meanwhile, the Colonels found their long-awaited 3-point shot as Tucker Sine sunk two treys in the midst of the overwhelming run.
The Pioneers settled down after the Colonels took their first lead of the game at 36-35 with 13:56 left in the second half. Sophomore Cooper Theobald began his assault on the rim en route to scoring all 12 of his points in the second half, six of which came at the free throw line.
As the teams continued trading leads and sharing ties, Centre pulled ahead with an endless barrage of converted three-pointers, splashing 9-of-12 from outside in the second half to finish at 50 percent from outside on the night.
Trailing 61-70 with 2:32 remaining, the Pioneers went on a captivating run: Theobald sunk a jumpshot to pull the Pioneers within seven, and a full-court press forced Centre's Bailey Rakes into a backcourt turnover. Quickly, freshman forward Gabe Schmitt hit a 3-pointer to trim Centre's lead to 70-66, and the Pioneers forced a consecutive turnover on Centre when they pressed the Colonels into a 10-second violation.
Theobald came through with another jumper with 94 seconds to go, but the Colonels immediately took advantage of an unresponsive Pioneers' transition defense with a home run pass to Sine. Theobald sprinted down to break up a potential Sine layup, and was called for an intentional foul. Sine hit both free throws to put the Colonels up four, and Centre made its free throws down the stretch to finish off the victory.
Four Pioneers scored in double figures, as Jones had a team-high 19 points. McKinney followed with 18 points, Schmitt provided 16, and Theobald added 12.
The Pioneers next play on Monday, November 28 as they venture to Greenville, Illinois to face Greenville College. Tipoff between the Pioneers and the Panthers is set for 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.
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