VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – For the past four weeks, Carson-Newman (11-10, 4-9 South Atlantic Conference) has held onto the last spot in the league standings granted a berth into the South Atlantic Conference Tournament.
When Mars Hill (9-11, 3-9 SAC) invades Holt Fieldhouse for an 8 p.m. tip Wednesday, the Lions will be looking to surge in front of the Eagles for that final spot in the league tournament.
Mars Hill took the first meeting from Carson-Newman this year, 87-74 back on Dec. 19.
Mars Hill is trying to do something that it has done just twice before in the 75-game history between the two schools, sweep a season series from Carson-Newman. The Lions accomplished that in the 1992-93 season and the 2009-10 season. A win in Holt Fieldhouse would give Mars Hill just its second ever three-game win streak over Carson-Newman. The Lions rattled off three straight from 2008-10 on C-N.
"We have to be very stingy defensively, and make scoring difficult for them," head coach Chuck Benson said. "That in of itself is a challenge because they are so capable of making shots. We've been playing a more complete offensive game, we just have to continue to do that."
In the first meeting this year, the Lions dominated the glass. The Lions don't allow loads of opportunities for second chance points. Mars Hill ranks 11th in the country in defensive rebounding, MHU was +16 on the class in its 87-74 win over Carson-Newman on Dec. 19.
Mars Hill is guided by the South Atlantic Conference's most prolific scrorer. Ja'Shawn Brooks averages a league-high 20.6 points per game. His slash line is impressive too. Brooks shoots 47.2 percent from the field, 45.9 percent from three and 93.5 percent from the line. He has the second best free-throw shooting percentage in the country.
Brooks has scored double figures in every game that he has finished. He was limited to two points in a loss to Tusculum, a game in which he got hurt before halftime. Since returning from injury, he has averaged 19.2 points per game.
Mars Hill is 7-4 at home, but just 2-5 away from Stanford Arena. The difference comes down to three-point shooting. In wins, Mars Hill averages 40 percent from long range. In losses, that figure dips to 30 percent.
The Lions have won back-to-back games against Southern Wesleyan and Coker and will look for their first three-game winning streak since beating North Greenville, Regen and Warren Wilson successively from Nov. 13-20.
Meanwhile, The Eagles will be trying to avoid back-to-back losses after losing a 19-point lead and falling in overtime to Lenoir-Rhyne at Shuford Gym.
"There's nothing different, we've address what we needed to address about L-R," Benson said. "Our guys understand the takeaways and know what we need to apply against Mars Hill. Our guys understand that we are process oriented, we're not going to deviate from that."
Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) and Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) are both on the 1,000-point watch for their careers at Carson-Newman. Bates sits at 983 career points. Abraham has 978. They are seeking to become the 27th and 28th 1,000-point scorers in C-N men's basketball program history.
"Both have been a part of nothing but winning seasons, NCAA tournaments and a championship," Benson said. "We're really pleased with what they brought to the team. They're wanting to wrap up the regular season strong and head into postseason play with some momentum. We're happy that they are both working toward this milestone."
Tipoff between Carson-Newman and Mars Hill is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network begins at 7:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.