VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (12-8, 9-5) will look to win a third consecutive game inside the friendly confines of Holt Fieldhouse after dropping back-to-back road games. The Eagles take on Mars Hill (4-16, 2-12 SAC) Wednesday night at 8 p.m.
Carson-Newman has taken four straight in the series, which the Eagles lead 55-16 heading into the 72nd meeting all-time.
"We have to come out and play like we're capable of playing without putting ourselves in a hole with fouls," head coach Chuck Benson said. "We have to be solid and sound in such a way that we don't have to put guys on the bench early and hold them for the second half. Three of the four games that we've trailed in the first half (Mars Hill included) have been directly correlated to foul trouble."
The Eagles took the first meeting with Mars Hill in come-from-behind fashion. Carson-Newman trailed by 12 in the first half before rallying on New Year's Eve for a 76-71 win over Mars Hill. The 12-point deficit overcome is tied for the biggest deficit that Carson-Newman has overcome this season. The Eagles were down 12 on Nov. 16 to UVA-Wise before coming back for a 96-91 overtime victory.
With a 2.74 assist-to-turnover ratio, Mars Hill guard Valentin Bauer is one of the best ball handlers in the country. Bauer ranks 27th nationally and second in the league with his 107 assists this season. His assist-to-turnover ratio is tops in the conference.
Bauer had eight assists against one turnover in the first meeting this season.
The Lions rank in the bottom 20 nationally in terms of field goal percentage defense. Opponents are shooting 48.7 percent from the field against the Lions - that's 11th in the conference. The Eagles made shots at a 42.2 percent clip in the first meeting. That figure accounts for Carson-Newman's only win in its last 13 games shooting worse than 45 percent from the floor.
Mars Hill has struggled offensively away from Stanford Arena. The Lions shoot 45 percent from the field at home and 33 percent from three. Those numbers drop to 39 percent and 29 percent on the road. The Lions average nine more points per game at home than they do on the road. Mars Hill is 0-9 this season away from Stanford Arena. The Lions have just one win, an 82-68 triumph over Brevard on Jan. 19, in their last 13 contests.
The Lions are coming off a narrow loss at home to Catawba under interim head coach Vic Finora.
"Vic's done a good job of keeping them focus and locked in," Benson said. "They could have easily done that by now. They have a ton of potential to win games, and I think it's something they'll do here down the stretch."
Meanwhile, Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) looks to start a new streak. Clark's string of 52 consecutive games scoring double-digits came to an end at #5 Queens on Jan. 28. Foul trouble hampered Clark all game long.
"There's been no discussion of that for Charles," Benson said. "Charles is about team success. We have got to have guys like Charles who learn from experience. Both of his fouls were offensive against Queens. We have to control the things that we can control and play with poise."
The junior only played 22 minutes and attempted three shots in route to seven points. The three shots are a career low for games in which he has started. The last time Clark didn't score 10 or more was in a 90-60 loss at Holt Fieldhouse to Lincoln Memorial on Feb. 25 of his freshman year.
Following that game, Clark closed his freshman season with five straight 20-point games and SAC tournament MVP honors.
Clark's 52 consecutive double-digit scoring efforts is a Carson-Newman record. Sawyer Williams' 27-game streak is the longest active streak among C-N players. He is a game away from matching Antoine Davis' 28-game streak for the second longest of all-time.
Clark, Davis and Williams are the only three players in Carson-Newman history with double-digit scoring streaks longer than 20 games.
With 19 double-doubles as a team this season, Carson-Newman is number one in the nation with Adelphi and Concordia (MN) for the most double-doubles as a team in the country. Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) and his school-record 10 pave the way for the Eagles in that ranking.
Tipoff with the Lions is set for 8 p.m. Thursday night. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 7:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.