VIDEO: Chuck Benson interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (8-5, 4-2 South Atlantic Conference) and Wingate (6-7, 3-4 SAC) got together three times last year to play basketball.
Three times, Wingate came out victorious, winning by more than 20 twice in the regular season, then ending Carson-Newman's seasons with a 75-69 comeback win in the South Atlantic Conference quarterfinals in Cuddy Arena.
The Eagles hope to halt that streak against the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. inside the friendly confines of Holt Fieldhouse.
"We have to do a good job of creating a quicker tempo," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "We have to challenge them before they dig in, the pace of this game could be a big factor for us, than if this were a grinder."
The wins last year snapped a four-game C-N win streak in the series, the first time in the 58-game series' history that the Eagles had taken four straight from the Bulldogs.
Wingate is about the only team in the South Atlantic Conference which has figured out how to slow down Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). Clark has at least one 20-point effort against every team in the SAC. Wingate is the exception. He has never scored more than 16 points against the Bulldogs, which he accomplished in a 71-67 win over WU his freshman year.
Clark, who is a career 50.5 percent shooter, went 11-for-40 from the field and 2-for-15 from three against the Bulldogs last season.
The Bulldogs have won three straight games, the second longest win streak in the South Atlantic Conference behind league-leading No. 3 Queens' 12-game win streak. The Bulldogs could easily have nine wins already this season, however, Wingate lost on shots in the final 11 seconds to Tusculum, Mars Hill and Newberry.
Excluding a 28-point loss to UNC Pembroke, the Bulldogs average margin of defeat has only been 5.4 points. Only UNCP and LMU have beaten Wingate by more than five points.
Wingate is the only team in the South Atlantic Conference that can boast of six double-digit scorers. Mike Baez leads the Bulldog attack with 15.1 points per game. - Wingate's defense has been much better on its win streak, the Bulldogs are giving up 67 points per game and no team has shot better than 43 percent over the last three games.
This year has been a strange one for the Bulldogs. The offense continues to be a strong point for the Bulldogs, averaging 81.2 points per game on the year, the highest since the 2007-08 season.
On the flip side, the Bulldogs are fifth in the league in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense, allowing 78.9 points per game, the highest in the Brian Good era. Wingate has not allowed over 73 points per game since the 2009-2010 season. Opponents are shooting 40.6 percent from three-point range against the Bulldogs this year, the highest in the SAC, while teams are knocking down 9.7 threes per contest against Wingate.
Meanwhile, both Clark and Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) can begin eyeing the top 20 for the all-time scoring list at Carson-Newman. Williams has 1,227 career points, he passed former teammate Carson Brooks for 21st on the all-time list against Tusculum. Clark sits at 1,212 career points, four away from Brooks, who now sits in 22nd with 1,216 points. Todd Lucas is 20th with 1,260 and Hugh Clement is 19th with 1,273 points.
Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) already inserted himself into the Carson-Newman record books by breaking Brooks and Scott Williams single season double-double record. Jones latched onto his seventh double-double of the year to take over sole possession of first for the category with 18 points and 10 boards against the Pioneers in the Eagles' win.
Tipoff between C-N and Wingate is set for 4 p.m. Saturday. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 3:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.