OAKLAND CITY, INDIANA - The Campbellsville-Somerset University Tigers opened up play on Thursday night in the Christian College NIT Basketball Tournament, and Al Gover's club shot itself into the Final Four of the tourney in impressive fashion.
For the game, the Tigers shot a red-hot, 53.6 percent from the field, hitting on 37-69 field goal attempts.
From behind the three-point line, CU-Somerset was even more impressive, knocking down 14-26 long-range attempts for 53.8 percent for the game.
And as a result, Johnson Bible College out of Kissimmee, Florida had no chance, as the Tigers beat down on the Suns by a tune of 106-93.
"There's some reasons why we shot the ball so well tonight," stated a very happy coach Gover immediately following the win.
"We were doing the things that we need to do on offense," Gover continued. "We were finding the open man, we were penetrating it and kicking it out to the open man, and our shooters had their feet set and were ready to shoot it when they caught the ball. That makes a big difference. Offensively, we've been pretty good for most of the year. Now, our defense is starting to come around a little bit."
At both ends of the floor, Gover and the Tigers got the job done early and often, throwing and landing a knockout punch against the Suns in the first half.
Daniel Coldiron set the tone early for CU-Somerset offensively, hitting a pair of three's during an early, 17-7 spurt to start off the game for the Tigers - a run that saw all five of the Tigers score at least one basket each.
After Johnson Bible College came back off the mat - momentarily - to take a one-point lead, a big-time flurry by the Tigers propelled Gover and crew into the lead for good.
Hunter Stephens and Meith Reclow were both instrumental in a run that saw the Tigers race out to a 53-33 lead at the intermission.
Stevens and Reclow started what would turn out to be 15-4 rally ending the first half of play, with back to back three-point baskets.
AJ Thomas got a steal during the rally and threw the ball ahead for an easy lay-up for Reclow, and the rout was on.
"We're learning to come out and be ready to play from the outset," pointed out Gover.
"We're learning to come out and be the aggressor, attack the basket, and do all those kind of things, and have fun while we're doing it," stated the Tigers coach, "When we do those things, we're a pretty good team. The thing that worried me about Johnson Bible College tonight was the fact they had played some really good competition this year, and had played some D-1 teams, but we came out early and shot it well and took control of the game from the beginning."
In the second frame, the Suns began the half with a modest, 6-1 spurt to whittle the gap down to 54-39. However, Keelan Kennedy would right the ship for CU-Somerset with a pair of three's, and the deficit would stay at 20 points or above, before Gover went to his bench over the final six and a half minutes left in the contest, when Johnson Bible College got the final deficit down to 13 points at the final horn.
"We talked to the guys at halftime about keeping our focus, and to come out in the second half and act like the score was zero to zero," Gover remarked.
"Right at the beginning of the second half they came out and cut our lead down to 15, but our kids responded at that moment and pushed it back out," stated the Tigers coach. "I'm really pleased with how well we played tonight."
CU-Somerset had seven players to hit for double figures in the win, led by Stevens with 21 points, while Reclow tallied 18 of his 19 points in the first half of play when the Tigers took control of things early on.
Titus Ransom added 14 points in the win, Kennedy scored 12 points, Coldiron chipped in with 11 points, and Leo McCray and Malik Lovan each came off the CU-Somerset bench to score 10 points.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 7-18 on the season, and moved on to Friday night's semi finals of the tournament.
CU-Somerset was to meet up against the host, Oakland City Mighty Oaks on Friday night at 7 p.m. local time.
CU-SOMERSET - 53 53 -- 106
J0HNSON BIBLE COLLEGE -- 33 60 -- 93
CU-SOMERSET - Stevens 21, Reclow 19, Ransom 14, Kennedy 12, Coldiron 11, McCray 10, Lovan 10, Owes 5, Thomas 2, Hampton 2.
JOHNSON BIBLE COLLEGE - McLeod 24, Young 20, Green 12, Starks 10, Smith 10, Jones 7, Bass 6, Levy 2, LeGrier 2.