Pioneers prevail in defensive rock fight over Carson-Newman

Pioneers prevail in defensive rock fight over Carson-Newman

VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview 

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (9-16, 6-13 South Atlantic Conference) put together its third-best defensive effort of the year, but were limited to a season-low for points and field goal percentage in a 62-52 loss at Tusculum (17-10, 12-7 SAC) Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena. 

The 62 points Tusculum scored are the second fewest an opponent has put up on the Eagles this year, while the Pioneers 37.1 percent shooting effort is tied for the third lowest by an Eagle foe.

However, in spite of an exceptional defensive effort, the Eagles only made 32.7 percent of their shots against the league's second best scoring defense en route to their lowest scoring output since putting up 49 points at Pioneer Arena last year in a 63-49 road loss to the Pioneers. 

"First, Tusculum's defensive capabilities were on full display tonight," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "You have to give them credit for that. Because of how they disguise their defenses, it does make it challenging to execute somethings. In spite of that, we still got several shots inside of 15 feet and at the rim that you would want to get against anyone's defense.  We missed a ton of layups from guys who are capable of making. If you told me that we would come in and limit them to 37 percent shooting, just five made threes and 62 points, I'd feel pretty good. We really had problems putting the ball in the basket."

Carson-Newman missed 12 layups in the contest, six in each half.

The Eagles missed their first 11 shots of the day before settling down to knock down 10 of their final 17 to head into the halftime lockeroom tied at 25 with the Pioneers.

However, it was Tusculum who struck with a 13-3 run shortly after exiting the halftime lockerroom to build a 40-30 lead with 142:40 to play in the contest.  Dillon Smith sparked the surge with three straight jumpers before capping the run with a three and a fast break layup. 

Carson-Newman was able to whittle the lead down to five with 3:50 to play on a Kaleb Wallace (Atlanta, Ga.) triple, but the Eagles couldn't further cut into the Pioneers advantage.  C-N missed five straight shot down the stretch and three straight free throws with a chance to cut the lead down to single digits. 

"Both teams were doing things to make the other struggle offensively," Benson said. "To be honest, I thought we had momentum at the halftime.  I liked how we battled through our struggles early. I don't sense our guys have thrown in the towel.  To me, this was like a 70s era Purdue-Indiana blood-letting.  It was a 15-round heavyweight bout where you have two gargantuans sweating on each other throwing body blows. It really did have a gross, old-school feel to it. Tusculum won, but neither one of us performed in a very pretty fashion." 

Smith led all scorers for the Pioneers.  He had 22 on 9-of-15 shooting, including 17 after halftime.  Brandon Mitchell turned in a double-double with 11 points and 12 boards, while Trenton Gibson added in 10 on 4-of-13 shooting. 

Wallace led Carson-Newman in  scoring with 11 points in 19 minutes. He went 3-for-6 from deep and 4-of-9 from the field. EJ Bush (Oak Ridge, Tenn.) was Carson-Newman's only other double-digit scorer with 10 points.  Eight of those came at the charity stripe. 

C-N plays the middle game in a three-game road swing at Queens Saturday. Tipoff with the second-place Royals is set for 4 p.m. Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts 15 minutes prior to game time with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at