ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. -- TJ Cox scored 23 points, 15 of which came in the first half, and the Covenant men's basketball team surged past host North Carolina Wesleyan with a strong second half in a 77-71 victory on Saturday.
Covenant, winners of four straight, remains at the top of the USA South standings with a 4-1 league mark. The Scots also improved to 9-6 overall, equaling their win total from a year ago. NC Wesleyan drops to 9-6 overall and 2-2 in the USA South.
Cox was on fire in the opening half as he went 6-of-8 from the field with three 3-pointers for 15 points. The senior guard finished with five 3-pointers and 9-for-13 overall. Bailey Spragg was the only other Covenant player in double figures with 11 points and a team-high three assists.
Despite shooting 46.7 percent in the first half, the Scots had difficulty slowing the Battling Bishops offense. NC Wesleyan scorched the nets at a 56.3 percent (18-of-32) clip and took a 46-37 lead into halftime.
The Scots buckled down defensively in the second half and limited the Battling Bishops to 32 percent shooting. Still, Covenant trailed 60-56 after NC Wesleyan's Brandon Brown converted a layup with 9:31 remaining.
Covenant scored on each of its next five possessions, going 5-for-5 from the field, to go on a 12-0 run and gain a 68-60 lead with 7:45 left. Berto Dryden had four points during the run, while Cox and Ben Phelps each had a 3-pointer. The Scots extended the lead to 74-65 on a Connor Sears layup with 2:54 remaining and held off NC Wesleyan the rest of the way.
Sears added nine points and a game-high seven rebounds for the Scots, while Z Arima had nine points off the bench. Friday night's hero Will Portlock chipped in eight points, five rebounds and two blocks. Phelps tallied eight points with a pair of 3-pointers.
Covenant shot 47.5 percent (28-of-59) from the floor and 50 percent (11-of-22) from 3-point land. NC Wesleyan made 45 percent (27-of-60) but was just 4-of-15 from deep.
The Battling Bishops were led by Brown's 15 points and six rebounds. DJ Weaver added 13 and John Edwards registered a dozen points.
Covenant will travel to face Maryville on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. inside Boydson Baird Gymnasium.
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