Centre rallies to beat Thomas More

January 07, 2004|JILL ERWIN

This time it was Centre College's turn to rally.

The Colonels overcame a six-point deficit here Tuesday night with six minutes to play and outscored Thomas More 15-6 in the final two minutes to hold on for an 81-72 victory.

"Down the stretch, we had our backs against the wall and we pulled another rabbit out of the hat," Centre coach Greg Mason said. "The last three games we've had have been very close, and we've made the plays when we've needed to. That's a big-time positive."

The last time the two teams had met, in the finals of the Lee's/Country Hearth Inn Holiday Tournament one week earlier, Thomas More (3-9) had cut a 16-point deficit to four before losing, but Centre (9-2) never got a chance to build up that kind of lead this time.


Neither team's lead ever reached double digits. There were 13 lead changes and six ties in the game.

Centre hit its first two 3-pointers in the first 38 seconds, one each by Jason Atwell and James Booker, and Mason said that his players may have relaxed a little too much after shooting 61.5 percent against Thomas More in their first matchup.

"We hit our first two 3s and I think we kind of fell into a false sense of security, thinking it wouldn't be a tough game," Mason said.

Their hot shooting wouldn't last, as the Colonels finished the first half shooting just 35.5 percent. Meanwhile, Thomas More hit 58.3 percent of its first-half shots and finished the game at 54 percent (27-for-50).

Mason said it was the fourth straight game in which Centre has struggled defensively.

"I'm disappointed in our defense," Mason said. "We've kind of lost our identity. We're a team that defends and rebounds. For some reason the last three or four games we just haven't been defending and rebounding. They shot 54 percent, and that's just entirely too high. Our goal is 39.5 percent, and the last four games we've been giving up astronomical defensive field goal percentages. We must get better there."

"We're a defensive team and we haven't been playing defense like we did before Christmas," said Atwell, who led Centre with 20 points. "Once we get our defense back, our offense will come. We just need to find our defense and then we'll be all right."

While Mason was far from pleased with the defense, he did see a big turnaround in rebounding. In the last matchup, the Saints won the battle of the boards 36-26 and grabbed a whopping 17 offensive rebounds. Tuesday night the Colonels outrebounded Thomas More 37-26 and had 13 offensive rebounds while holding the Saints to only four. Rob King grabbed 11 rebounds, and both he and Reggie Magnusson had three offensive rebounds each.

Centre trailed by four at halftime (37-33), and that deficit grew to seven in the second half. Thomas More led 60-54 with 6:34 to play, but Centre went on a 12-3 run to take a 66-63 lead. The Saints tied the game at 66, but then the Colonels pulled away.

Coy Zerhusen started the run with a 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:07 to play, giving Centre a lead it wouldn't relinquish again. Zerhusen scored 14 points off the bench, 12 of them in the second half, and also had seven rebounds.

"Coy started for us when James (Booker) was out, and he started last year, so he's got all the experience he needs," Atwell said. "He does all the dirty work, but he's started hitting the 3 now so I guess we can call him a jump shooter."

Atwell also added a 3 in that final 15-6 run, and Booker and Kyle Roby to go 9-for-10 at the foul line to ice the game.

King had 14 points, and Booker added 13.

Central Kentucky News Articles