Lexington, Ky. – The Centre College Colonels stunned the Transylvania men's basketball team with a last-second game-winner from Jacob Bates to win at the Beck Center, 58-57 on Wednesday evening.
Bates scored on a game-winning runner with 0.5 seconds remaining in the second half to give the Colonels their second straight win on a game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds or less after Bates hit a buzzer-beater in the Colonels' last game against nationally-ranked Wabash College this past Thursday.
Bates reprised his buzzer-beating shot against Wabash last Thursday with a drive down the crimson paint to hand the Pioneers their first loss of the season, transforming each team's record to 3-1.
The stunning finish neutralized a gutsy comeback by the Pioneers, who erased a 14-point deficit early in the second half after being held to just 19 points in the first half on 24 percent shooting.
Centre utilized an effective zone defense for the first half to stifle the Pioneers' offense to an 8-for-34 showing from the field on the way to establishing a 30-19 road advantage at halftime.
The Pioneers gradually thawed out their cold snap in the second half, beginning with a pull-up three-pointer from Michael Jefferson to slice Centre's lead to 33-22. Transylvania used hustle plays and contagious team energy to impose their will on the glass; Zach Larimore used an offensive putback to earn a three-point play, cutting Centre's advantage to 36-27 with 17:06 remaining in the second half.
The Colonels held a nine-point lead with 13:06 left in regulation before Jefferson made his presence felt once again with a three-point play, slicing Centre's lead to 40-34. As the Pioneers sought clean looks, their defense held Centre in check with just one field goal over the next six minutes to augment their comeback.
The game took a sudden turn with 8:58 left in the second half when Lucas Gentry buried his first three-pointer of the second half and second of the game to pull the Pioneers within four at 42-38. Gentry knocked down another three-point from the exact same spot on the following possession to evaporate Centre's double-digit lead down to a single point. Gentry signed off on his personal 8-0 run with another jumper to put the Pioneers in front at 43-42.
Gentry continued his firebrand shooting, knocking down a triple with 5:35 remaining to tie up Centre at 46-all. Centre's Perry Ayers put the Colonels back in front on a jumper and Carter Baughman hit two free throws to give the visitors a 50-46 cushion, but Larimore copied Gentry with back-to-back threes to tie Centre again at 52-52 with 2:57 to go.
The Pioneers completed their comeback when Larimore buried another long-range shot from behind the arc for a 55-52 lead with 2:19 left in the second half. The momentum appeared to be shifting vigorously towards the Pioneers when Lucas Gentry made a layup with 1:25 to go, but Bates earned a foul the other way for Centre and split a pair of free throws to draw within four at 57-53.
Quickly deploying a full-court press, the Colonels forced the Pioneers into a backcourt turnover and Ayers quickly made the Pioneers pay with a straightaway three-pointer, cutting Transy's lead to 57-56. Gentry missed a jumper with 19 seconds to go that ceded possession back to Centre.
After getting stuck on the perimeter and time running out, the Colonels called for a timeout with four seconds left and inbounded the ball from in front of the Pioneers' student section on the far sideline. Ayers triggered the inbound pass and found Bates, who coasted down the lane to score the go-ahead bucket. The Pioneers threw a long range pass from the backcourt baseline after a timeout for a miracle shot, but Jefferson could not release the shot in time, bringing the game to its inglorious end.
The Pioneers shot 44 percent from the field in the second half after their ice-cold first half from the field and hit 7-of-13 three-pointers in the second period for a 54 percent clip.
Gentry led the Pioneers with 18 points off the bench, including 13 in the pivotal second half, hitting 7-of-14 field goals. Jefferson notched his first double-double of the season with 15 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, and one steal on 5-for-14 shooting from the field while Larimore finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and one block.
Transylvania outrebounded Centre 46 to 32; for the evening, the Pioneers shot 33 percent from the field compared to 37 percent by the Colonels.
The game-winner on the road for the Colonels served as the latest irrepressible chapter in a storied Central Kentucky rivalry between the two Division III schools. The Pioneers will have the chance to return the favor to the Colonels on December 30 in Danville, Kentucky as the teams will play each other multiple times in the regular season for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
The Pioneers will return to action on Wednesday, December 4 with their Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference home opener against the Earlham College Quakers at the Beck Center for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
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