The Oglethorpe men's basketball team used an outstanding performance from the opening tip to the final horn Friday night at Dorough Field House, leading defending SAA champion Birmingham-Southern by as many as 14 points en route to a 65-58 victory over the visiting Panthers. The win improved the Stormy Petrels to 8-15 on the season overall and 5-7 in SAA play, putting them in a tie for sixth place headed into the final two games of the regular season.
The Petrels forced 16 Birmingham-Southern turnovers Friday night while committing just 8 themselves. In the process, they outscored the Panthers 13-5 off turnovers and 21-2 on the fast break. Birmingham-Southern did command the boards, outrebounding Oglethorpe 46-31 and outscoring them 15-3 in second chance points, but the Petrels shot 45 percent from the field while holding the visitors to just 37 percent.
Junior guard Justin Edwards led the team with 18 points on the evening, converting on 7 of 12 field goal attempts and dishing out 5 assists. Senior forward Drew Patrick collected 15 points on 6-of-11 from the field while grabbing 7 rebounds in the process, and junior guard Chris Lawrence added 12 points on 2-of-4 from distance and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
The Panthers led for most of the opening 10 minutes of the contest, pulling out to leads of 8-4 and 14-10. A 9-2 stretch for Oglethorpe vaulted them into the lead, 19-16, with 7:54 to go until halftime. Consecutive baskets gave the Panthers a 2-point lead with 6:13 remaining, but the Petrels continued pushing. They used a 12-3 run to give them a 31-24 advantage with 2:48 left in the first half. A pair of Panther baskets made it a 3-point game, but Oglethorpe maintained that advantage into the locker room, 32-29.
The second half saw the Petrels get off to an outstanding start. They began the period on a 17-6 run over the opening 5:45, pushing out to their largest lead of the contest, 49-35, with 14:15 left. Birmingham-Southern used an 11-1 run to get right back into the thick of things, down 51-46 with 9:42 remaining. However, three consecutive buckets put Oglethorpe back up by 12 with 6:50 remaining. The Panthers used eight straight points to cut it to a 58-54 contest with 2:27 remaining, but they would get no closer. The Petrels got a huge block from sophomore center Tom Inungu with 22 seconds remaining and a 6-point lead, then he got his own rebound on a missed free throw and converted the front end of a one-and-one to give his team a 7-point lead and put the game away.
"Just like last Sunday, I loved our energy tonight," said Oglethorpe head coach Philip Ponder. "We have had two solid back-to-back games. Our defense is getting better, our ball movement is getting better, and we are playing our best basketball of the season right now. I'm hopeful that we can continue to build on this and finish the regular season strong and head into the tournament with some momentum. I really like the direction we are heading."
The Petrels will host Millsaps Sunday at 3 p.m. in Dorough Field House, then will close out the regular season by celebrating the 100th anniversary of basketball at the school when they take on Berry on Feb. 18.