Greg Ross scored 28 points on 11 of 13 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds Saturday to lift the Centre College men into the final of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament for the seventh straight year with a 77-58 win over No. 9 Birmingham-Southern on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.
Birmingham-Southern was on a 43-game home court winning streak, but trailed the Colonels (18-8) 32-20 at the half and fell to Centre for the second time in three meetings.
Earlier in the day, Ross was named the SCAC¿Player of the Year.
“Two weeks ago, they had us down 29, and when they beat people here, they blow them out,”¿Centre coach Greg Mason said. “We had a game plan and we hoped it would work. And it worked beyond our expectations. Our attention to detail was phenomenal. We carried out our scouting report better than anybody could have ever expected, and I’m just real proud of our guys.”
Centre lost to the Panthers 81-64 on Feb. 17, but dominated the rubber match Saturday.
The Colonels shot 63 percent from the floor (25 of 40), made nine of 16 3-pointers and hit all 18 of their free throws. The Centre defense held the Panthers to 30 percent shooting (18 of 60) and hit just six of 33 3-pointers.
“We’ve been up and down with our ability to defend, but this was as good a defensive job as there has been in this conference for many, many, many, many years,”¿Mason said. “It was a lot like the Georgetown-Villanova (NCAA title) game in 1985. We defended an unbelievably good team and at the same time shot 77 percent in the second half.”
Collin Lopez was 6 of 7 shooting — including 3 of 4 from 3-point range — and scored 17 points while Jeff Mullaney added 11 points and three assists.
Centre never trailed, getting bucket from Ross and Bryon Ellis to open the game. Josh Karsner’s 3-pointer made it 23-12 with 4:50 left in the half.
“Greg Ross was amazing. He hit 3s, he did whatever was needed,”¿Mason said. “And Collin was equally as impressive and really attacked the rim off the bounce.”
Centre led 35-26 at the half, then used a 9-0 run to open up a 49-32 lead. The Panthers never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way at 51-40 with 7:58 to go. Ross scored seven straight points after that to give Centre its biggest lead at 58-40 with 5 minutes to go.
Centre outrebounded Birmingham-Southern 35-28.
“This was easily our best game of the year, and probably as impressive an achievement as I’ve had as a head coach. We could not have played any better, it was a perfect storm,”¿Mason said.
Centre 67, Rhodes 56 — At Homewood, Ala., the Centre women advanced to the SCAC final with a win over Rhodes.
Maggie Prewitt had 19 points and went 9 of 10 at the free throw line, and Lauren Huter added 10 points and 10 boards for the Colonels (23-3).
“We came out to a great start, and had a great shooting first half and built a 22-point lead,”¿Centre coach Wendie Austin-Robinson said. “Rhodes is a very physical team that makes you play that way, just like they did at our place last week (in a 58-56 loss). But the kids hung on and found a way to win, and I’m proud of our effort.”
Centre will either play Southwestern or Millsaps in the tournament final.