Thomas leads Panthers past Spalding in season opener

Thomas leads Panthers past Spalding in season opener

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Led by junior Larry Thomas with 22 points, the Birmingham-Southern men's basketball team opened its season at home Friday evening with a 78-66 victory against Spalding University in the first game of the annual Black Tie Classic, hosted by the Panthers in Bill Battle Coliseum.

It was the season opener for both teams. Spalding will face Emory University tomorrow at 4 p.m., and BSC will take on Emory on Sunday at 3 p.m.

The game was close for the first 10 minutes of play, with BSC going up 5-2 early and then Spalding taking a 10-5 lead by the 15:10 mark. The Panthers proceeded to score six straight points to go back up 11-10, and the teams traded baskets before BSC took a 13-12 lead at the 12:35 mark and would never trail again. The Golden Eagles trailed 17-16 at the 11:09 mark before the Panthers used a 12-0 run to go up 29-16 over the next five minutes, and BSC led by 19 at the half, 48-29.

BSC pulled ahead by 22 twice in the opening minutes of the second half for the largest lead of the game. Although the Panthers maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game, Spalding was able to cut the lead back down to 12 with 3:43 left and then again after a three-pointer with nine seconds left in the game, bringing the final score to 78-66.

Thomas' 22 points led all players; he was 6-10 from the field including 3-6 from three-point range as well as 7-8 at the free throw line. Freshman Evan Lewis was also impressive in his collegiate debut, recording 13 points on 3-4 shooting from the field and 7-8 shooting at the charity stripe. Senior Schylar Freeman led on the boards with seven rebounds, sophomore Ross Welch led with five assists, and senior Jason Holland had four steals.

For Spalding, William Barber led with 16 points and Brandon Gabriel had 12 as well as a team-high five assists. Quayshaun Hamilton led the Golden Eagles with six rebounds.

BSC shot 56.8 percent (21-37) from the field including 33.3 percent (5-15) from beyond the arc. The Panthers hit 81.6 percent (31-38) from the free throw line. Spalding was not as effective, hitting 40.7 percent (24-59) from the field, 20 percent (4-20) from long range, and 77.8 percent (14-18) at the line.

Both teams struggled with turnovers—BSC had 20 and Spalding had 19—and the Eagles out-rebounded the Panthers 33-26.