Men's Basketball: Panthers face familiar foe in Birmingham-Southern in NCAA tournament Friday

Men's Basketball: Panthers face familiar foe in Birmingham-Southern in NCAA tournament Friday

The LaGrange men's basketball team is making its third straight trip to the NCAA Division III national tournament which begins Friday. The Panthers will face Birmingham-Southern at 5:30 p.m. in Emory University's Woodruff P.E. Center in Atlanta, Ga.

Unlike the past two NCAA appearances, the Panthers will be very familiar with their first round opponent. In 2014, the Panthers were playing Centre for only the fifth time and last season faced Whitworth for the first time.

In Birmingham-Southern, the Panthers will be taking on a team they beat 88-80 in overtime at Mariotti Gym in the sixth game of the season on Dec. 2. This will be the 21st meeting between the two teams with the series tied 10-10.

BSC (22-6) is making its second NCAA appearance after winning the Southern Athletic Association Championship and receiving the conference's automatic post-season bid. The Panthers earned an at-large bid in 2012.

BSC is riding an 18-game win streak dating back to Jan. 3. The Panthers started the season 1-5, but went 14-0 in SAA play. 

Senior forward Alex Avery, the SAA Player of the Year, leads BSC in scoring at 13.6 points per game, and a conference-leading 10.8 rebounds per game. He also leads the team and the SAA in assists with 103. BSC's Chris Graves was voted SAA Coach of the Year.

LaGrange counters with five players scoring in double figures, led by junior guard Justyn Olson's, 16.6 points per game. Senior guard Mark Wagner averages 15.2, sophomore guard Alex Bonner 12.0, senior guard Braxton Ford 11.8, and junior forward Drew Vanderbrook 11.5. Bonner leads the Panthers in rebounding, averaging 5.7 per game.

In the other game Friday, host No. 25 Emory and Covenant at 7:30 p.m. The two winners meet on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Panthers defeated Emory at the Maryville Classic during the season and won both regular season meetings against Covenant.