LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- A 19-1 scoring run midway through the second half momentarily erased a 17-point halftime deficit for the Covenant men's basketball team, but the Scots could not hold the lead as they fell to LaGrange 73-64 in USA South action inside Barnes PE Center.
It was a tale of two halves for the Scots, but ultimately Covenant (5-6, 0-1 USA South) sees its losing streak extend to three. The loss also marks the first time in three years that Covenant has fallen in a USA South opener.
Covenant was cold in the first half as it shot 31 percent from the field and only 1-for-13 behind the 3-point line. LaGrange took advantage and sprinted to a 43-26 lead at the half as Tyler Langston capped the period with a short jumper in the waning seconds. The Panthers shot 48.6 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes and led for the entirety of the half.
The momentum began to shift in the second as Covenant began to find the range, especially from 3-point land. From the 13:31 mark of the second until 8:18 remaining, the Scots overcame a 16-point deficit and took a 55-53 lead after a TJ Cox free throw with 8:18 left. Ben Phelps knocked down two 3-pointers during the run and a Patjo Twagirayezu 3 gave the Scots their first lead at 54-53 with 8:34 remaining.
The teams traded baskets over the next several minutes as Covenant's Bailey Spragg knotted the score at 64 with a layup at the 4:04 mark. LaGrange would hold the Scots scoreless over the final four minutes and the Panthers' Mark Wagner scored seven of the final nine points to seal the win for the visitors.
Phelps and Twagirayezu had 13 points apiece for the Scots. Phelps went 5-of-9 from the field with three 3-pointers, while Twagirayezu added seven rebounds. Cox added 10 points, Chris Boyd scored six points with six rebounds off the bench and Spragg recorded four points, eight rebounds and two assists. Z Arima dished out three assists.
Justyn Olson had a game-high 15 points with 10 rebounds for LaGrange (9-2, 2-0 USA South), while Wagner added 13 points and three steals. Drew Vanderbrook tallied 10 points and eight rebounds in a reserve role.
Covenant shot 33.3 percent (22-of-66) from the field, but only 20 percent (8-of-40) from beyond the 3-point line. LaGrange shot 46.4 percent (26-of-56) and went 18-for-25 from the foul line and held a 47-35 rebounding edge.
Covenant will host USA South foe Piedmont on Tuesday at Barnes PE Center. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m., after the women's contest at 5:30 p.m.
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