Patjo Twagirayezu scored a career-high 32 points and the Covenant men's basketball team rallied late in the second half to defeat Birmingham Southern, 86-82, on Tuesday night inside Barnes PE Center.
Covenant goes to 1-1 on the year and has won three straight against Birmingham Southern going back to 2015. The visiting Panthers go to 1-3 on the year.
Twagirayezu had previously set a career-high for points against Birmingham Southern last year in a Scots win and had another big night to lead Covenant to a win in its home opener.
The senior was 13-of-26 from the field with four 3-pointers to go along with five rebounds and an assist. James Mitchell also set a career-high in points with 18, all coming via the 3-pointer, while Berto Dryden and Caleb Haynes had 10 points apiece.
Haynes led the way with seven rebounds and Dryden had a team-high five assists. Jared Jauch came off the bench to produce five points and five assists and Will Crumly contributed six points in his reserve role.
The 3-point shot was a favorite for the Scots on the night as they connected on 16 treys and had well over half of the total shot attempts come from beyond the arc. Covenant made 39.2 percent (31-of-79) from the field and 35.6 percent (16-of-45) from 3-point land.
Covenant led 43-37 at halftime after making 10 3-pointers in the opening half. Mitchell was on fire early as he connected on five triples in the first 20 minutes to have 15 points at the break. Birmingham Southern took a 10-4 lead in the first four-plus minutes, but the Scots would climb back and eventually take the lead at 30-28 after a Mitchell 3-pointer with 2:48 left in the half.
In the second half, Covenant extended its halftime lead to 48-41 on a Twagirayezu jumper with 18:20 left. The teams would go back-and-forth until Birmingham Southern opened a five-point lead at 74-69 with 4:43 left. Two Dryden free throws and a 3-pointer from Twagirayezu knotted the score at 74 with 3:24 remaining. Covenant took the lead for good after a Nick Palmer 3-pointer at the 2:55 mark made it 77-74. Twagirauezu had another big bucket that made it 83-80 with 38 seconds left and Jauch would make 3-of-4 at the free throw line to seal the win.
Harrison Deneka had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists to lead Birmingham Southern. Zach Allison added 14 points and Kaden Moore tallied nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds. The Panthers shot 54.2 percent (32-of-59) from the field, but made just four 3-pointers and 14-of-25 at the free throw line.
Covenant also turned 17 Birmingham Southern turnovers into 18 points and held a 40-37 rebounding edge.
Covenant will be off for nine days before hosting LaGrange in a USA South opener on Thursday, Nov. 30. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
In the women's game, a valiant effort fell short on Tuesday night as the Scots suffered a 75-63.
Covenant drops to 1-2 on the year, while Emory goes to 3-1.
Facing a team with a height and a strong inside presence, Covenant was within striking distance until a run in the fourth quarter from Emory put the game out of reach. Joanna Smith led the Scots with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Jessica Bell scored 13 points with four rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. Taylor Robinson and Kaley Hallmark added nine points each.
Ashley Oldshue, Emory's 6-foot-2 center and preseason All-American, was stifled early but finished with 18 points and five rebounds. Erin Lindahl had 15 points and a game-best 12 points to record a double-double off the bench. Azzairia Jackson-Sherrod had 12 points and Lindsey Tse 11 points and seven assists for the Eagles.
Covenant led 16-15 at the end of the first quarter. The Scots scored the first two baskets of the night, a 3-pointer from Emma Grimes and a layup from Smith, to go ahead 5-0. Covenant led 10-4 after a conventional three-point play from Bekah Walter. The lead grew to 16-7 on a Raquel Rosa layup with 2:13 left in the period, but Emory would end the quarter on an 8-0 run.
The Scots maintained a lead for much of the second. A Grace Potter 3-pointer gave the Scots a 30-22 lead with 5:37 left before halftime, but a scoring drought would ensue as Covenant went nearly five minutes without scoring. During that time, Emory made a run and took a 34-30 lead, capping a 12-0 run with a Jackson-Sherrod jumper. Emory led 36-34 at the break.
Emory led for the rest of the game, but Covenant kept it close. The Scots trailed 54-48 heading into the fourth quarter after a Bell offensive rebound and putback with 28 seconds left in the third. In the fourth, Covenant got as close as 56-52 after a Smith jumper with 8:33 left, but Emory rattled off eight straight to build a 12-point lead.
Covenant connected on 42.9 percent (24-of-56) from the field and 11-of-15 at the free throw line. Emory shot 47.8 percent (32-of-67) from the floor and held a slim 35-34 rebounding edge. Emory assisted on 22 of its 32 made field goals.
Covenant will have a week off before traveling to take on Birmingham Southern on Tuesday, Nov. 28. Tip time is set for 7 p.m. EST.