VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Reid Burke Interview
VIDEO: Jared Johnson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (15-13, 13-9 South Atlantic Conference) closed the contest on a 7-0 run and drained a season high 13 threes to knock off Newberry (19-9, 13-9 SAC) 89-82 Saturday afternoon at Holt Fieldhouse.
The win secures Carson-Newman its second consecutive runner-up finish in the league (the Eagles were picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll) and a first round home game against Coker in the SAC tournament. Tipoff with the Cobras is slated for 7 p.m. Wednesday.
"We talked a lot about what all was at stake with this game," head coach Chuck Benson said. "We didn't get far away from our normal preparation though. Our kids, with their action, gave more than was expected this year."
The game featured the Wolves' usual frenetic pace and a slew of runs resulted. Carson-Newman headed into the locker room with a 44-35 lead thanks to a 15-4 run to close the first half. Newberry would make short work of the Eagles' advantage, racing out of the gates to begin the second half on a 27-9 spurt that turned the Eagles' 11-point advantage into a seven-point lead for the Wolves with 13:37 left in regulation on a Mitch Riggs layup. The Wolves hit 10 of their first 12 shots to begin the second half.
The squads battled back and forth until Carson-Newman took the lead with 9:29 to play on a thunderous Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) dunk over Xavier Holmes and Gerald Evans that resulted in an and-1 and a 69-66 advantage for the Eagles that they would not relinquish.
"Their tempo and pace of play is so fast that there's no lead that can be sustained or shattered in a moment's notice going both ways," Benson said. "We were down by seven in the second half, and that it wouldn't mean a whole lot if we kept playing. They never came unglued."
Newberry tied Carson-Newman on three occasions down the stretch, but never could get over the hump. The final tie came at 82-82 with 2:31 left on a Demarkus Smith layup. However, the Eagles countered with a Jared Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) contorting runner in the middle of the paint that drew a foul as the shot dropped. A quintet of free throws helped the Eagles close the game with a seven-point win in tow.
The contest saw Carson-Newman drain a season-high 13 threes and dish out 28 assists, the most assists in a game for the Eagles since facing Newberry two years ago. Josh Rogers (Bristol, United Kingdom), Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) and Brooks all hadr five assists.
"We've seen what people were going to do," Benson said. "And that was to take away our inside game. That's the wise move. We've just kept reinforcing our perimeters that they've got to knockdown shots out of post shots. Our guards did a great job of making the extra pass to get open looks from beyond the arc."
Carson-Newman shot 60 percent for the game on 33-for-55 shooting. It marked the Eagles' first game on the plus side of 60 percent since connecting on 62 percent of their shots in a 22-point win at Brevard last season.
On senior day, the Eagles' sent Johnson and Reid Burke (Nashville, Tenn.) out in style. Johhsn on had 14 points, including drilling a trio of threes.
"Jared has been here and means a whole lot to me on multiple level," Benson said. "He's been dealing with injuries this entire year. He's been critical this stretch. We don't win this game without him today. It's good to celebrate this conclusion to the regular season before we head into postseason."
Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) led C-N with his fifth career 20-point game. Clark went 7-for-11 from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Brooks just missed out on a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. Sawyer Williams was the Eagles fourth double-digit scorer with 11 points and six boards.
Newberry was led by Brandon Taylor's 15 points. Mitch Riggs and Demarkus Smith each added 14. Dondray Walker had 11 for the Wolves.
The Eagles open up the SAC tournament Wednesday against Coker in Holt Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. The Cobras swept the season series with the Eagles. Coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network online at cneagles.com/live.