GREENEVILLE — They were missing their high-flying forwards, Odell Parker and Corbin Jackson, but it didn’t keep Carson-Newman from scoring in the paint. Ishmael Sanders and Antoine Davis took their games inside to lead the Eagles to a 67-56 win over South Atlantic Conference rival Tusculum at Pioneer Arena.
“When it’s not falling (outside), they (Davis and Sanders) will mix in penetration shots and try to get us some points,” C-N coach Chuck Benson said. “They’re maturing that way. They’re going to get back to making (three-point) shots. Tonight wasn’t the night.”
Carson-Newman (9-2, 2-1 SAC) found itself in unfamiliar territory for most of the first half. The Pioneers (2-9, 0-3) led until the final two minutes of the opening half, as they opened up their defense to keep C-N from running them off the floor with three-pointers. The strategy worked, with Sanders and Davis combining for just one successful three and C-N as a team going 3-for-15 in the game.
“That was our focus,” Tusculum coach Michael Jones said. “You look at that and two of those three are from their five (Cody Henegar). I felt like we had a good defensive gameplan. We executed it for 34 minutes really well. In the last six minutes we gave up some key buckets to some special players, Davis and Sanders.”
Though they lost the game, Tusculum can boast the most dominant player on the floor, 6-foot-7 freshman Keith Jumper. Jumper recorded a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Pioneers also got a career night from Nick Spinks, who scored 17 points and went 4-for-6 from beyond the three-point arc.
While Carson-Newman wasn’t getting the scoring it was used to, it still dominated the boards. The Eagles outrebounded Tusculum 38-28 and limited the Pioneers to just five offensive rebounds.
With Jackson and Parker out, and point guard Marcellous Perez limited with an ankle injury, C-N’s bench stepped up. Henegar, starting in the place of Parker, nearly recorded a double-double himself with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Jared Johnson had a break-out game with eight points and four rebounds. Johnson’s speed in the paint flummoxed Tusculum any time he drove the lane.
“Jared is strong, physical and tough,” Benson said. “He was disappointed with his play in the first half and we had to encourage him at halftime to pick his head up. Jared stepped up and performed well.”
Tusculum pulled within one as the second half began with a layup from Spinks. The Pioneers would never get that close again. A three-pointer from Heneger put the Eagles up by nine with 10 minutes to go.
“We thought he (Henegar) might be the X-factor tonight,” Benson said. “Those threes were huge and he can do that. He can stretch you for a big guy.”
Davis hit a jumper to take a 51-40 lead a minute later. Davis finished with 17 points.
“I was disappointed sometimes in how we weren’t able to keep the ball in front of us,” Jones said. “We gave up some baseline drives. They had three-four returning starters and you saw that pay off for them in the end. They were even tempered and they made the plays they had to make.”
Sanders scored 16 for the Eagles. Though Tusculum shot 40 percent in the game, C-N was able to hold two starters, J.D. Miller and Devin Call, without a point.
Carson-Newman will host Newberry (5-6, 1-2) Saturday at Holt Fieldhouse at 4 p.m. Tusculum is on the road, facing Catawba (4-7, 1-2) also at 4 p.m.