JEFFERSON CITY — Carson-Newman tries to do something tonight it hasn’t done to Tusculum in a decade – sweep a season series with the Pioneers.
The last time the Eagles (14-4, 7-3 SAC) picked up a season series against TC it was the 2001-02 season and Carson-Newman was on its way to an NCAA tournament. Not only did the Eagles take the regular season series with TC that year, but the Eagles also knocked the Pioneers out of the SAC tournament.
“We know that you’ve got to throw out the records at this point,” Carson-Newman head men’s basketball coach Chuck Benson said. “This is a game about pride. It’ll be a war, a grudge match and we’ve just to come out there and fight for 40 minutes and hope that victory favors us.”
The following year, C-N would drop a home contest to TC. The Eagles wouldn’t win in Holt Fieldhouse against the Pioneers until 2012. C-N knocked off TC in Greeneville this year 67-56 behind 17 points from Antoine Davis.
Carson-Newman enters the contest after knocking off league leader Wingate on the road 63-52.
Benson said the game’s rivalry status prevents the 135th meeting between C-N and TC from being a trap game for the Eagles.
“I thought Brevard was a trap game last week,” Benson said. “Then we got caught in the trap, somehow gnawed our leg off and escaped. This will not be a trap game situation because our kids are juiced. Something happened that was special with a bonding that Wingate trip. These practices leading up to this game have been special.”
Carson-Newman will have to defend against stalwart freshman forward Keith Jumper. Jumper is one of three players to produce a double-double against Carson-Newman. Jumper scored 20, and ripped down 11 boards in the previous meeting.
“He’s a nice blend of finesse and power,” Benson said. “We have to get multiple bodies in front of him and keep him off the glass. Unfortunately we’ll have to see a lot of him over the next several years.”
While Jumper put 20 on the Eagles in the first meeting, it was Davis and Ish Sanders who put in the work for the Eagles. Davis plopped down 17, while Sanders followed suit with 16 for the Eagles.
The last meeting with Tusculum (5-13, 3-7) was a bit of a rarity for C-N. The Eagles were held to a season low three, three pointers and Carson-Newman’s leading scorer was kept below 20 points, something that has occurred three other times. The Tusculum game is the only game the Eagles have won without making seven or more threes and a 20-point scorer.
The Eagles and Pioneers tip at 8 p.m. from Mossy Creek.