KNOXVILLE — The game was trending in the wrong direction for Knoxville after the first quarter as they found themselves down double digits. Then the Panthers flipped the script and would dominate the remaining 24 minutes of action to come away with a 62-49 win over Grinnell on Monday night.
From the tip it looked like Grinnell was going to control the game. The Tigers opened up on a 13-0 run while getting whatever they wanted offensively against the Panther defense.
Offensively, the shots weren’t falling for Knoxville before Spencer Hixson’s three got them on the scoreboard with 2:30 left in the opening quarter.
Grinnell held a 17-5 lead entering the second quarter as Knoxville was looking to fight back with plenty of time left. The Panthers opened the quarter on a 9-2 run as they looked more confident on the offensive end while Grinnell’s shots that fell early were now rimming out.
Knoxville continued to cut into the deficit, tying the game before AJ Wilkins made a nice step through and hit the jumper at the buzzer to give Grinnell a 30-28 lead going into halftime.
The tensions started to rise a little bit in the third quarter as play got physical. Luke Keitges would give Knoxville the lead with an open three but the possession didn’t stop there as a Grinnell player through Hixson down underneath on the shot. The referees assessed an intentional foul, giving Hixson two free throws and the ball back to Knoxville.
Hixson made both free throws to give the Panthers a five-point possession and a four-point lead late in the fourth. Kieren Nichols’ floater just before the buzzer held that four-point lead as the two teams headed to the fourth.
The fourth quarter has been dominated by Knoxville the last two games prior and that didn’t change against Grinnell.
Another Hixson three capped off a Knoxville 11-0 run to open fourth and put the game out of reach. In Knoxville’s last three fourth quarters, they have combined to outscored their opponents 54-25.
Keitges led the way with another double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Nichols had 14 points and five assists while Hixson finished with 13 points and four rebounds.
Freshman center Jack Bertrand continues to give good energy and minutes off the bench for the Panthers. He scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-6 shooting and eight rebounds.
Knoxville (10-4, 8-1 SCC) is right back on the court on Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. when they host a big SCC showdown against Albia (13-2, 9-0 SCC).