HICKORY, N.C. – The Carson-Newman Lady Eagles (7-3, 5-0 South Atlantic Conference) women's basketball team defeated the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears (5-3, 2-3 South Atlantic Conference) by a score of 80-77 at Shuford Gymnasium on Saturday evening.
Sophomore Tatum Burstrom (Maryville, Tenn.) scored a career-high 27 points as the Lady Eagles remain the lone unbeaten team in SAC play, and are 5-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
"This is a hard place to play, Lenoir-Rhyne has a fine basketball team, and they've had our number before," said Carson-Newman head coach Mike Mincey. "So we feel very fortunate, I'm proud of our kids, and for us to come out of here with a three-point win, we're ecstatic with a 'W'."
Burstrom's top scoring performance in her career included going 9-for-16 from the field, along with a 5-for-10 mark from beyond the arc.
"Tatum is capable of being this type of player," Mincey said. "She's still young, only a sophomore, she's inconsistent at times, but in a game like tonight when she starts feeling it, I'd like to keep seeing her do this a lot."
Joining Burstrom in double-digit scoring was freshman Kaitlyn Cupples (Clinton, Tenn.) with her 12 points, and once again senior Chante' Markus (Hummelstown, Pa.), who has now scored in double-digits the past five games as she added 11 points including a crucial layup that gave Carson-Newman the lead for good late in the contest.
The Bears started the game strong with a 10-3 run in the game's first four minutes.
Carson-Newman climbed back with a 12-2 run featuring several 3-pointers, including one by Taylor Peterson (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) that gave the Lady Eagles a 27-24 lead over the Bears with 8:30 left in the first half.
The rest of the half was back-and-forth, and at halftime the Lady Eagles led 46-45, thanks in large part to 20 first half points from Burstrom.
Carson-Newman would grow and maintain the lead in the second half. The Bears fought back, and eventually tied the contest at 73 with 2:36 remaining on a 3-pointer by Danielle Bongiorno. Markus got the lead back for C-N on a layup before the Bears once again tied the contest at 75 on a pair of made free throws by Krystal Patton with 1:51 remaining.
Markus gave Carson-Newman the lead for good with 1:26 to play on a layup that gave C-N a 77-75 lead. After Cupples hit a pair of free throws to grow the lead to 79-75, the Bears came back with a Jordan Hiatt layup that cut the lead to 79-77 with seven seconds remaining. The Bears quickly fouled Jai Jai McLaughlin, and going 1-for-2 at the line was enough to secure the 80-77 victory.
The victory snaps a six-game losing streak for the Lady Eagles to Lenoir-Rhyne, and is also Carson-Newman's first win at Lenoir-Rhyne since the 2010-11 season.
Lenoir-Rhyne was led in scoring by the 17 points of Morgan Cooper. She was joined in double-figures by Katt, Patton, and Jazmine Charles who all added 10 points to the Lenoir-Rhyne cause.
Carson-Newman finishes the pre-Christmas schedule by hosting Kentucky Wesleyan at Holt Fieldhouse on Wednesday at 5 p.m. The game will be played as part of a women's/men's doubleheader, with the men hosting the Limestone Saints at 7 p.m. The Lady Eagles will not play again until after the holidays, traveling to Wingate on Jan 4.
Wednesday's game will be carried on the Eagle Sports Network's flagship station WPFT-FM 106.3 FM, with coverage beginning at 4:45 p.m. with "The Countdown to Tipoff," and live video is also available on www.cneagles.com.