Colton McGriff had 22 points and the Covenant men's basketball team opened the regular season in style with a 71-65 victory over Berry in the first game of the Berry College Classic in Rome.
Covenant wins its season opener for the second time in the last three years. Berry drops to 0-1 on the young season.
Despite a cold shooting night from the field, Covenant was able to withstand the Vikings. McGriff made just 5-of-19 from the field, but connected on 11-of-13 from the foul line to go along with nine rebounds. Micah Turner and Nate Frierson each chipped in 10 points with Frierson dishing out a team-best three assists. Bryant Engbers grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Scots.
Covenant shot 35.6 percent (21-of-59) from the field and held Berry to 33.9 percent (21-of-62) from the floor. With new rules on defensive fouls, and an emphasis in hand-checking, the two teams combined to shoot 74 free throws on the night. Covenant went 24-of-41 from the line, while Berry was 18-of-33.
In a ragged first half, Covenant went on a 12-2 scoring run to gain a 22-12 lead after a Robby Bell free throw with just under nine minutes left in the period. Berry would trim that lead to 29-25, but the Scots scored the final four points of the half, all on free throws, to go ahead 33-25 at the break.
Covenant extended its lead to 10 points at 40-30 on a Turner free throw, but Berry again rallied and chipped away at its deficit. The Vikings would take a 45-42 lead on a Lee McCloud 3-pointer with 11:31 remaining. Frierson answered back immediately with a 3-pointer of his own to knot the score at 45 apiece.
With the score tied at 50-50 and 6:26 left, Covenant made the critical plays on three straight possessions to seize control.
Chris Boyd kickstarted an 8-0 scoring run with a layup and Jake DeLaney and Frierson hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Scots a 58-50 lead with 5:18 left in the game. Those buckets ended up being the ones that secured the victory for Covenant.
Berry would trim the Covenant lead to just two points, but made free throws down the stretch by the Scots prevented a full rally by the home team.
Owen Jacobs led Berry with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Hunter Smoak and McCloud added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Covenant will face Emory & Henry at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the final game of the Berry College Classic.