Centre overtakes Asbury

December 05, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

Like a race horse with closing speed, Centre College ran best when it mattered most.

The Colonels watched as Asbury set a blistering pace in the first half Thursday, then made their move at the top of the homestretch, running the Eagles down and pulling away for their third straight victory.

Centre outscored Asbury 25-10 over a 9 1/2-minute span to take the lead and expand it to double digits on its way to a 76-64 win at Alumni Gymnasium.

The Colonels endured a first half in which Asbury shot 62.5 percent from the field, then took advantage of a deeper bench in the second half.


"It gives us a little confidence that a team can come out and shoot well in the first half and we can gut it out and come back and take over the game," Centre coach Greg Mason said. "I think maybe they were a little tired. I thought our depth helped us out."

That depth is evident in the scoring summary, which shows Centre (5-1) with five players in double figures.

The Colonels also played better defense in the second half, when Asbury (5-5) shot just 26.9 percent.

"We buckled down and started playing defense like we know how," forward Coy Zerhusen said. "We started knocking down shots, but it all started with our defense."

Freshman Matt Jacobson, who hit two of the four consecutive 3-point goals that allowed Centre to expand its lead, led the Colonels with 15 points off the bench.

Zerhusen had 14 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, and the Colonels got 13 points from Reggie Magnusson, 11 from James Booker and 10 from Rob King.

Mason said the Colonels weren't executing what the scouting report called for in the first half, when Asbury went 15-for-24 from the field and they took control late in the period with a 13-6 run that gave them their largest lead at 36-29 with 2:34 remaining.

The game came at a tricky time for Centre, two nights after a win at archrival Transylvania and two nights before a game at Eastern Kentucky.

"Maybe we were not where we should have been initially, and Asbury made us pay for it," Mason said.

That's exactly what Asbury coach Jim Aller wanted.

"We thought we might catch (them) in a bad spot, and I think in the first half we did," Aller said. "It was a battle."

The momentum swung as soon as the second half started, as Centre capitalized on four Asbury fouls in the first 53 seconds, including a technical on Aller, to score eight straight points and take a 41-39 lead.

Asbury soon regained the lead, but Centre went in front to stay at 50-49 on John Ortega's 3-pointer with 13:35 to play.

Asbury had only four field goals in the final 15 minutes, and the Eagles went 7-for-26 from the field after halftime. They were led by forward Stephen Horn, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds.

"Once we got our defense going, that seemed to get everybody pumped," Zerhusen said.

Colonels use four straight 3-pointers to pull away

Centre led 56-53 before getting four straight 3-pointers - two from Jacobson and one each from Zerhusen and Booker. Jacobson followed that barrage with four straight points to give the Colonels a 72-59 lead with 4:02 left.

Many of Centre's second-half points resulted from its work on the offensive glass, where the Colonels got nine rebounds in the second half.

"We knew we were a little more athletic, a little more physical," Mason said. "Getting offensive rebounds just means you get more shots."

Centre will take its best shot against Eastern on Saturday night in Richmond in its first game against a Division I school in nine years.

"It's something for the seniors," Mason said. ""We wanted to give them the opportunity to play against a Division I opponent, and they're excited about it. But we're trying to figure out how athletically we can match up with them."

Zerhusen said the Colonels are familiar with many of the Eastern players from playing with them in a Lexington summer league.

"We played with a lot of them this summer, so we know their personnel pretty well, and we know we can play with them," he said. "If we have our game, you never know what could happen."

Centre's last Division I game was a 100-61 loss at Morehead State on Nov. 29, 1994.

The Colonels turned heads when they upset Austin Peay 85-83 early in the 1986-87 season, but they have gone 0-4 since then against D-I schools, losing to Miami (Ohio) and Western Kentucky and twice to Morehead.

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