C-N Eagles host L-R tonight in SAC tourney opener
JEFFERSON CITY — Carson-Newman and Lenoir-Rhyne are fairly well acquainted after splitting the regular season series, but now the stakes are raised with a spot in the Food Lion SAC Tournament semifinals on the line.
The fourth-seeded Eagles (19-7, 12-6 SAC) and fifth-seeded Bears (18-8, 11-7 SAC) have squared off five times in the SAC tournament; four of those meetings have come in the opening round. The Eagles are 2-3 all-time against the Bears in postseason play. The last time the teams met in the tournament it was 2001 and a fourth-seeded Eagle club beat the Bears 81-68.
While Carson-Newman head coach Chuck Benson isn’t against a case of déjà vu, he’s pleased that the Eagles are at least at home for the opening round.
“I had a personal goal that we would be able to host a first round tournament game and that’s become a reality,” Benson said. “Now we need to make sure we’re ready to take care of business.”
The first 300 Carson-Newman students in the doors of Holt Fieldhouse will be admitted for free. Adult tickets are six dollars, student tickets run for three.
Carson-Newman beat the Bears on a last second three from Ish Sanders back on Feb. 9, 61-58. The Eagles fell on Dec. 1 69-57.
“In both games both teams played well and did good things. We’ll have to do a phenomenal job defensively,” Benson said. “But we’ve got to make shots, something that we’ve struggled to do of late.”
The game features four all-SAC candidates in the Eagles Sanders and Antoine Davis and the Bears Denzel Dillingham and R.J. McClure.
Davis and Sanders are one and two in the league in scoring with 19.0 and 18.7 points per game respectively. Dillingham sits in fourth with 18.1 points a contest. McClure represents a dangerous three-point threat with 12.7 points per contest.
“L-R mirrors us in the way their team is made up,” Benson said. “Dillingham is an excellent finisher from within 15 feet. We limited him to 11 last time. We can’t let him get comfortable.”
McClure was the man to explode in the last meeting, as he went for 22 for the Bears. Sanders and Davis led the Eagles much like they have all season. Sander went for 19 and Davis 16 in the Eagle victory.
Tipoff for the quarterfinal matchup is set for 7 p.m. at Holt Fieldhouse. Pregame coverage on the Coca-Cola Eagle Sports Network begins at 6:45 p.m. with the Farm Bureau Countdown to Kickoff on 106.3-FM and online at cneagles.com.
-From Contributed Reports