JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (6-9, 3-6 South Atlantic Conference) stiff-armed Tusculum (10-7, 5-4 SAC) through a late rally to snap a four-game losing streak and collect a 72-68 win over the Pioneers Wednesday night inside Holt Fieldhouse.
“Today was desperately needed and a testament to our guys,” Carson-Newman head men’s basketball coach Chuck Benson said. “They were really intentional about our scout and really locked in. Obviously, we took some good punches late in the second and were still able to stay connected and unified to pull through for the win.”
The Eagles limited the Pioneers to 39.4 percent shooting while singing the nets against the SAC’s second-best scoring defense to the tune of 51.8 percent shooting.
Carson-Newman had to withstand a late 9-0 Pioneer run to hold on for its first win since Dec. 14. The four-point margin marks the first game in six contests that Carson-Newman has won when the margin of victory has been five points or less.
“We’ve had experiences, both positive and negative,” Benson said. “Today showed that we’re learning and growing from these experiences as painful as they may be at times. I’m just glad our guys are making those kind of strides.”
The Eagles led by 12, 67-55 with 3:32 to play following a head-of-the-key 17-footer splashed in from Tripp Davis.
However, the Pioneers trimmed the Eagles edge to three with 56 seconds left following a Brandon Mitchell old-fashioned three-point play. The Pioneers spurt was aided by a trio of Carson-Newman turnovers.
However, the Eagles found their offensive football and got a coast-to-coast layup from Davis and a pair of free throws from Reece Anderson with 23 seconds left to ice the contest.
The tight margin obfuscated the Eagles’ 17-point second-half advantage.
The Eagles built the lead using a 10-0 run spanning the halftime break. The Eagles hit back-to-back threes to open the second half to swell the lead to double-digits for the first time on the night with long-distance dedications from Luke Brenegan and Davis.
Eight minutes later, the bulge swelled to 17, 53-36 on a paint touch from EJ Bush.
Carson-Newman confounded Tusculum defensively. The Pioneers made four of their first 17 shot attempts of the second half before finding their footing offensively over the final 10 minutes of the game. Tusculum closed the game 13-of-20 from the field to make the rally.
Davis led Carson-Newman offensively with his fifth straight 20-point outing. He finished with a game-high 24 on 9-of-16 shooting. He went 3-for-5 from long range and had four boards to go along with a pair of steals.