BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Playing without two regular starters, the Covenant men's basketball team used a career-high 24 points from Patjo Twagirayezu and held on for a 68-65 victory at Birmingham Southern inside Bill Battle Coliseum on Tuesday night.
The win pushes the Scots to 3-1 overall. It was also the second time this year Covenant has defeated an NCAA Tournament team from 2016 as the Scots now own wins over Emory and Birmingham Southern.
Twagirayezu was 11-of-17 from the field for a career-best 24 points, but it was his defense that sealed the win for Covenant. With the Scots up 66-65 in the final 20 seconds, Twagirayezu stole the ball and took it the other way for a layup giving Covenant a 68-65 lead with 1.4 seconds left. After a Birmingham Southern timeout, the host Panthers worked the ball the length of the floor but a 3-point attempt from Evan Lewis was off the mark as time expired.
Covenant was without the services of Connor Sears and Berto Dryden because of illnesses, but the Scots overcame it with strong play from new starters Z Arima and Caleb Haynes. Arima scored seven points and had two assists and two steals, while Haynes tallied two points, six rebounds and two assists.
Bailey Spragg had 16 points and Zack Allen had a career-high 12 points on 4-of-5 from 3-point territory. Will Portlock had a team-high four assists. Covenant shot 52.8 percent (28-of-53) from the field with nine 3-pointers.
Both teams went back-and-forth in the first half as Birmingham Southern took a 35-32 lead into the halftime break.
In the second half, Covenant went on an 8-2 run to take a 51-46 lead with 12:53 left after a Spragg 3-pointer. After the Panthers tied the game later in the half, the Scots built a seven-point cushion after another Spragg 3-pointer to make it 64-57 with 3:49 remaining.
Birmingham Southern rallied back as the Scots had trouble with the Panthers' defensive pressure and made it a 66-65 Covenant lead with 22 seconds left. Birmingham Southern had possession down by one with under 10 seconds left, but Twagirayezu knocked the ball away from Ian Thom and went the distance to lay it in for a 68-65 lead with 1.4 ticks remaining.
Thom had 16 points to lead Birmingham Southern (2-2), while Matty Rudak had 15 points. The Panthers shot 46.4 percent (26-of-56) from the floor.
Covenant will break for Thanksgiving before heading to Sewanee on Tuesday, Nov. 29. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. EST.
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