FERRUM, Va. -- The Covenant men's basketball team has been searching for clutch plays down the stretch over the course of its seven-game losing streak. On Friday night, the Scots made the plays and saw their losing skid come to an end.
Covenant went on a 15-1 scoring run over the final three minutes to defeat Ferrum 66-54 in the USA South opener at Swartz Gymnasium.
Trailing 53-51 with just under three minutes to play, the Scots locked down defensively and scored 15 straight to gain a 66-53 lead with under 30 seconds left. TJ Cox scored eight points during the stretch, including six free throws, and Will Portlock made two fastbreak layups.
Colton McGriff led Covenant (2-8, 1-0 USA South) with 15 points to go with four rebounds. Cox added 11 points and two steals, while Portlock had eight points and a game-high five assists and three steals.
Covenant took a 31-22 lead into halftime after dominating the final 10 minutes of the opening half. Trailing 17-15 midway through the first half, Covenant went on a 12-0 scoring run, capped by a Chris Boyd layup off a Portlock assist, to take a 27-17 lead with five minutes left. Portlock and Boyd each had four points during the stretch. A driving layup from Nate Frierson with a few seconds left in the period gave the Scots a 31-22 lead at the break.
For the majority of the second half, however, it was Ferrum who used defensive pressure and a full court press to cut into Covenant's lead. The Scots led 35-24 after a McGriff jumper with 16:52 remaining, but Ferrum answered with a 17-2 run to take a 41-37 lead.
The Panthers extended the lead to 46-41 before Covenant responded to tie the game at 53.
Ferrum (4-7, 0-1 USA South) was led by Jamal Pullen's 22 points and six rebounds. D'Andre Mullen chipped in 10 points and two steals. Ferrum shot 37.2 percent (16-of-43) for the game but were severely hampered by an 18-of-35 effort from the foul line.
Connor Sears tallied eight points and six rebounds and Bryant Engbers scored five points with a game-high nine rebounds. Covenant outrebounded the Panthers 36-33. The Scots were 26-of-56 (46.4 percent) from the floor and 9-of-12 from the free throw line.
Covenant will have less than 24 hours before facing another USA South test as they travel to Danville, Virginia to play Averett on Saturday (4 p.m.).