The defense was decent, and the rebounding was pretty good. But the shooting was putrid, and nothing else Centre College did could mask that.
The Colonels struggled to put the ball in the basket from the start of Tuesday night’s game, and it cost them their first loss of the season, as they shot a chilly 32 percent from the field in a 56-51 loss to Transylvania at Alumni Gymnasium.
Centre started cold and never really warmed up in its home opener, and coach Greg Mason said its shooting woes canceled out any success it had in other areas.
“We shot inside of 25 percent for most of the game,” Mason said. “You have to put the ball in the basket. You can talk defense, you can talk rebounding, but if you don’t reward yourself offensively, then all that’s for naught.”
The Colonels went 17 for 53 from the field and 2 for 15 from 3-point range in their lowest-scoring game in nearly a year.
“We have been shooting the ball better, but tonight, I don’t really know what it was,” Mason said.
Centre (3-1) shot 51 percent from the field in its first three games, but the Colonels stood at 29 percent before they hit three of their last four field-goal attempts in the final 34 seconds.
“We’re going to work on shots tomorrow,” Mason said, referring to the practice scheduled for today before the players left town for a Thanksgiving break. “The best offense we had tonight was Josh Crawford at the free-throw line.”
Crawford scored more points from the foul line than any Centre player produced from the field, as he hit 11 of 12 free throws for most of his team-high 15 points.
Transy coach Brian Lane said he was pleased with the defensive effort by his young team, which has only four players who were with the Pioneers when they last played at Centre two years ago.
“This is the best defensive effort we’ve had in a while — actually, in a long time,” Lane said.
He said the key was sticking with Centre’s top 3-point threats. Bryon Ellis, Jeff Mullaney and Donovan Whiteside combined to go 14 for 37 in the Colonels’ first three games, when the team shot 39 percent from behind the line, but they were just 2 for 10 on Tuesday.
“Historically, when Centre gets on a role they’re making a lot of 3s, and ... there weren’t many uncontested shots,” Lane said.
Still, Centre stayed in the game. Transy (1-1) was in front for all but 88 seconds of the second half, and the Pioneers pulled out to a 38-29 lead while the Colonels made only one basket in a stretch of nearly eight minutes.
The margin hovered between four and seven points until a layup by Mullaney got the Colonels to within 44-42 with 1:51 remaining, but Ashley Hatfield answered with a jumper on Transy’s next trip.
Centre then had three straight empty possessions before Whiteside sank a jumper with 34 seconds left, and the Pioneers made six straight free throws to keep the Colonels at bay down the stretch.
Centre led for almost five minutes of the first half, and its largest advantage was 16-12.
The Colonels outrebounded Transy 37-33, with Greg Ross grabbing 13 boards and Alex Lloyd getting nine. That mattered little, however, as they posted their lowest point total since a 53-44 loss at Birmingham-Southern on Dec. 4, 2009.
“Our guys competed,” Mason said. “Our guys wanted it, maybe too much, and it was offensively just not a very good basektball game.”
Hatfield, a freshman, led Transy with 15 points. Lincoln County High School graduate Ethan Spurlin had a team-high seven rebounds off the bench for the Pioneers.