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Scots Dish Out 22 Assists in USA South Win over NC Wesleyan

Will Portlock (photo credit: Anna Dove/Sports Information)
Will Portlock (photo credit: Anna Dove/Sports Information)

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- The first five minutes of Friday night's game went visiting North Carolina Wesleyan's way. The final 35 was all Covenant.

The Covenant men's basketball team erased an early 15-0 deficit as they rallied past the Battling Bishops of NC Wesleyan 71-64 in front of a loud and large crowd inside Barnes Physical Education Center.

Covenant dished out 22 assists, tied for the season-high, on 23 made field goals. Will Portlock scored a career-high 13 points and had four of those assists, while TJ Cox added 10 points, four assists and two blocks. The Scots shot 41.8 percent (23-of-55) from the field and connected on 20-of-30 from the foul line.

Early on it did not look good for the Scots. For the second straight game, Covenant fell behind by double digits within the first five minutes of play. However, Covenant responded to the adversity in a big way on Friday.

NC Wesleyan went ahead 15-0 on a Josh Lancaster layup with 14:41 left in the opening half. Covenant rallied and went on a 20-4 scoring run, capped by a Bryant Engbers layup with 7:30 to go that gave the Scots a 20-19 lead. Covenant stretched its lead to eight at 31-23 after a pair of Connor Sears free throws before NC Wesleyan cut its deficit to 33-28 at halftime.

In the second half, Covenant took its biggest lead of the contest at 46-33 after another Engbers lay-in with 13:33 remaining. NC Wesleyan got to within three at 50-47, but a pair of Z Arima free throws and a Robby Bell 3-pointer put the Scots back up 55-49 and the Scots would make enough free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

Covenant's bench out-scored NC Wesleyan 29-22 with valuable contributions from several players. Arima had four points and two assists, Micah Turner tallied seven points and two assists while Engbers registered eight points and two rebounds. Bell had four points and four assists in a reserve role.

NC Wesleyan was paced by 13 points apiece from DJ Weaver and Isaac Brown. The Battling Bishops shot 42.9 percent (24-of-56) from the field and were held to 2-of-15 from behind the 3-point line. NC Wesleyan did outrebound the Scots 40-29.

Covenant will look to make it a win streak on Saturday when it hosts USA South foe William Peace at 4 p.m.

Be sure to follow the Scots all season long on and on social media at FacebookTwitter and Instagram for up-to-date scores, news and other information.