Lady Pioneers upset SAC leader Lenoir-Rhyne

 GREENEVILLE — Breaira Barksdale matched her career high with 16 points, all in the second half, and Tusculum College went on a 24-7 run early in the second half on their way to a 72-54 victory over league-leading Lenoir-Rhyne University in a South Atlantic Conference women’s basketball game Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.

 April McCann added 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds and Nequoiah Anderson added a career-best 13 points off the bench for the Pioneers (10-5, 4-3 SAC), who shot 48 percent from the field (24-for-50) against a Bears squad that entered the game holding opponents to the ninth-lowest percentage in Division II at 33 percent.

 Caroline Laughter led the Bears (11-4, 6-1 SAC) with 14 points and five rebounds and Jordan Hiatt added 11 points and six rebounds, but Lenoir-Rhyne shot 31 percent (18-for-58) from the field and lost the rebounding battle to Tusculum by a 46-34 margin.

 Barksdale surpassed her season high of 15 points set on Saturday against Mars Hill and matched her collegiate best of 16 points set for UNC Asheville against High Point on Jan. 8, 2011. Barksdale did not attempt a shot in the first half and played just seven minutes due to early foul trouble, but went 5-for-9 from the field and 3-for-3 from three-point range in the second half.

 McCann registered her third doubledouble of the season and fifth of her career for the Pioneers, grabbing 10 of her 11 boards on the defensive end while playing a career-high 37 minutes. Anderson went 4-for-6 from the field and 5-for-7 at the line to surpass her previous career high of 11 points set Nov. 28 against Lincoln Memorial.

 Lenoir-Rhyne scored the game’s first four points on two layups by Nneka Awuruonye, but the Pioneers came back with a 10-2 run that included back-to-back three-pointers from Jama Hammontree and Kendal Baxter. Tusculum took the lead for good at 18-17 on a free throw by Anderson with 4:37 left in the first half, triggering an 8-2 run to end the half and send the Pioneers to the locker room with a 25-19 lead.

 McCann led all players with eight points and six rebounds in the first half for the Pioneers, who shot just 8-for-19 from the field as a team and committed 15 turnovers. Laughter paced the Bears with six points, but her team shot 7-for-27 (25.9 percent) from the field and were able to score just five points off the 15 Pioneer turnovers.

 Tusculum took its first double-digit lead of the game at 32-22 on a three-point play by Ashley Thurman with 18:16 to play, but Lenoir-Rhyne cut the deficit to 35-29 when Hiatt drilled a three-pointer with 15:17 remaining. From there, it was all Pioneers as Barksdale scored 11 points during a 15-3 run that extended the Tusculum lead to 50-32 with 10:56 on the clock.

 The run was extended to 24-7 as Barksdale and Hammontree hit back-toback three-pointers to give the Pioneers their largest lead of the game at 59-36 with 7:36 to go. Tusculum led 66-44 with 3:30 left, but the Bears scored 10 straight points to trim the margin to 66-54 with 1:22 left. However, Anderson hit two free throws and McCann added two free throws and a layup in the final 80 seconds to set the final score.

 Hammontree finished with nine points and three rebounds before fouling out midway through the second half, and Baxter and Thurman added seven points apiece for the Pioneers. Kristen McMillion played a career-high 30 minutes off the bench for Tusculum and registered five points, seven rebounds and a season-high four blocked shots.

 The Bears’ shooting struggles extended to the free-throw line, where they finished 14-for-28 as a team. Lenoir-Rhyne was 4-for-15 as a team from three-point range while Tusculum sank six of its 13 attempts. The teams combined for 49 fouls and 59 free-throw attempts in the contest.

 The Pioneers will be on the road Saturday evening at Newberry beginning at 6 p.m. from Eleazer Arena.

Posted on Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 2:40 pm