ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. -- Four players scored in double figures and the Covenant men's basketball team keeps finding ways to win as the Scots defeated Greensboro 91-83 in a USA South Tournament semifinal on Friday evening inside Everett Gym.
Covenant (17-9) will play for the USA South Tournament championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament on Saturday against either No. 1 seed North Carolina Wesleyan or No. 4 seed LaGrange. It will be Covenant's first trip to a conference tournament championship in a modern conference format (1989-present).
TJ Cox scored 21 points, including going 8-of-8 from the free throw line, with four rebounds and two assists to lead the Scots. Will Portlock scored 10 first half points and finished with 14 and three assists, while Connor Sears registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Patjo Twagirayezu tallied 12 points and four boards.
Covenant shot 49 percent (24-of-49) from the field and feasted at the free throw line going 38-of-44. The 38 made free throws was just one shy of tying the USA South Tournament record. Defensively, Covenant held Greensboro to 35.9 percent (28-of-78) from the field, the second straight game the Scots have held an opponent to under 40 percent shooting.
Much like in Thursday's quarterfinal game, Covenant had a very efficient first half. The Scots shot 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from the field to take a 44-31 lead heading into halftime. Covenant trailed 17-13 with 11:05 left in the half, but proceeded to outscore Greensboro 20-2 over the next five-plus minutes to take a 33-19 lead after Portlock made two free throws.
The lead extended to 15 at 38-23 on a Chris Boyd jumper at the 3:42 mark before the Pride cut the margin to nine a minute later. Daniel Garrett and Cox made two free throws apiece on consecutive possessions in the final minute of the half to keep the lead in double figures.
In the second half, Covenant kept a double digit lead for much of the period. The Scots took their largest lead of the contest at 54-37 after a Twagirayezu layup with 16:30 remaining. Greensboro trimmed the lead down to seven on a couple occasions in the half and trailed 67-60 with 5:28 left. Cox buried consecutive 3-pointers to up the lead to 11 at 73-62 with 4:14 left.
Free throws down the stretch iced the win and a berth into the championship game for the Scots. Covenant made 13-of-16 from the foul line in the final two minutes to secure the victory.
Greensboro (16-11) was led by 33 points from Simeon Howard and 22 from Joseph Gatling. Zedric Barnett added 10 off the bench for the Pride.
Covenant will play for the USA South title and a berth into the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 2 p.m. vs. N.C. Wesleyan or LaGrange. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. Live stats and video can be found here
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