Men's Basketball: Panthers turn back Covenant 76-65 for key USA South win

Men's Basketball: Panthers turn back Covenant 76-65 for key USA South win

LaGrange turned back Covenant 76-65 to pick up a key USA South win Friday night in Mariotti Gym.

With the victory, the Panthers (16-6, 7-4 USA South) moved within a half-game of the third place Scots (13-8, 8-4 USA South). 

Senior Braxton Ford led the Panthers with a game-high 21 points. Mark Wagner followed with 16 points, 12 coming in the second half as the held off the Scots down the stretch.

The Panthers won despite missing their first 20 3-point shot attempts. They hit their final three attempts to wind up 3-for-23. But the Panthers made up for it with their best rebounding game of the season.

The Panthers had a 56-36 edge on the boards, setting a season-high for rebounds. They had a 16-7 advantage on the offensive glass, outscoring the Scots 16-2 on second chance points. Elijah Adedoyin and Drew Vanderbrook each had a game-high eight rebounds.

Covenant held the lead for the final nine minutes of the first half and led 34-31 at the break. The Scots led 48-41 midway through the second half.

Tyler Langston hit the Panthers' first 3-pointer of the game with 10:04 left. Langston's trey sparked a 14-2 run by the Panthers.

Wagner made a steal at the defensive end and scored off a layup at the other end to tie  the game at 50. Ford's layup off another Scot turnover gave the Panthers a 52-50 lead and they never trailed again.

A 3-pointer by Wagner pushed the Panthers' lead to 11, 66-55, with 3:44 remaining. The Scots crept within five points with 40 seconds left.

But Wagner made a pair of free throws and fed Adedoyin for a basket, before Vanderbrook hit two more free throws to seal the 76-65 win.

The Panthers host Maryville on Saturday at 6 p.m. for Senior Day.