Centre hoopsters sharp in first game back

December 30, 2004|MARTY WARREN

Coming off an 18-day break, Centre College coach Greg Mason didn't know what to expect from his team against LaGrange here Wednesday night.

What he saw, though, was a team that didn't look like it had missed any time at all as the Colonels broke open a tight game midway through the first half and coasted to an impressive 83-56 win over the Panthers in the opening round of the Papa John's/Country Hearth Inn Tournament.

Centre will meet Heidelberg College, an 81-74 winner over Wabash in the tourney opener, tonight at 7 p.m. in the title game.

"We were playing well before the break and I didn't know what to expect tonight," Mason said. "We had an awareness on the floor both offensively and defensively and played a fantastic game."


The Colonels (8-2) won because of outstanding shooting and an aggressive defense. They connected on 34 of 67 attempts from the field for 51 percent and held LaGrange in check with 37 percent shooting.

Mason was particularly pleased with the Colonels' assist to turnover ratio (15-11) and liked the fact that his team didn't settle for the first shot it had.

"We had good looks at the basket all night," the Centre coach said. "That was a product of our pressing and we constantly looked to make the extra pass tonight. If you shoot the ball that well and hold teams under 40 percent shooting, you will win a lot of games."

The Colonels trailed 11-8 following back-to-back buckets from Brian Darracott before reeling off 11 straight points to grab a 16-11 advantage. Sophomore Josh Bell score five points during the run and Coy Zerhusen added four as Centre took advantage of three LaGrange turnovers and turned them into points.

Bell scored a game-high 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting.

"A game like this should give him confidence" Mason said. "He was outstanding."

Leading 21-14 with 10:15 to play in the half, Centre went on a 12-2 run over the next three minutes and never looked back. Reggie Magnusson scored five points, Adam Patterson drained a trey, and Matt Jacobson and freshman Matt Nestheide scored following steals to give the Colonels a 33-16 advantage.

Centre's aggressiveness wasn't the only thing that pleased Mason during the half. He was impressed that the Colonels went hard to the offensive glass while grabbing 10 offensive rebounds. LaGrange managed only 11 the entire game.

"We did a nice job on the offensive glass because Coy (Zerhusen) has a real knack at getting to loose balls," Mason said. "The fact that they only had had 11 offensive boards tells me they didn't get many second chance opportunities to score. That pleases me."

Another 14-2 scoring run midway in the second half forced LaGrange coach Warren Haynes to insert five new players to try to spark his team. But Bell scored nine points during another two-minute span to extend the lead to 79-47. The lead eventually grew to 34 points (83-49) before the Panthers scored the final seven points of the game.

Mason knows that as well as the Colonels rebounded the basketball against LaGrange, they will have to have the same type effort against a much taller Heidelberg team tonight. The Student Princes (4-6) start three players over 6-5 but have only one senior on the roster.

"If we play like we did today, we will be okay," the Centre coach said. "But then again, you don't know how we respond on back-to-back nights after a long lay-off.'

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