Hot-shooting Pioneers push past Eagles with second-half surge  

VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview

VIDEO: Mason Bates Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Tusculum (13-12, 9-8 South Atlantic Conference) rattled off a 23-5 run late in the second half to collect a 79-65 win over Carson-Newman (13-12, 6-11 SAC) Wednesday night in Holt Fieldhouse.

The Pioneers sweep the season series with Carson-Newman for the first time by winning in the same fashion as they did in the first meeting this year, with strong second half play.

"We continued to do a poor job with ball control," head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "We have veteran guys that, for whatever reason, are struggling to take care of the basketball.  That run, it felt like if it could go wrong, it went wrong.  There were two possessions on that run where it was five-on-four because we had guys who went down and officials couldn't stop play because Tusculum was in transition.  They hit shots out of scrambles on broken, busted plays. 

"Then we come down on the other end and try like crazy to find scoring opportunities. Credit to Tusculum, they're playing really good defense and are making scoring tough.  When you're not scoring and you've got situational breakdowns, those kind of runs can happen. Time and again, this team has become its own worst enemy.  I want to give credit to Tusculum.  They played well. However, we keep on doing things to ourselves, and it makes things really difficult."

Carson-Newman had a one-point lead at the break, 37-36, that evaporated in the blink of an eye. 

The Pioneers pounded out of the gates on an 8-0 run to take a lead they wouldn't surrender.  Donovan Donaldson and Caleb Hodnett hit back-to-back threes before Hodnett snagged a layup to give the Pioneers the biggest lead either team had had to that point in the game after 11 lead changes and five ties in the first half.

Carson-Newman got the deficit down to four, 54-50 with 11:58 to play in the second half off a Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) jumper in the middle of the lane.  However, that's when Tusculum exploded.

Back-to-back triples from Dillon Smith and Donaldson surged the lead to double figures in a span of 45 seconds. 

The dust settled 7:35 later with book-end back-to-back threes from Hodnett and Smith with Tusculum leading 77-55 with 4:14 to play.

The Eagles did rattle off a 10-0 run down the stretch to make things more respectable, but the damage had already by levied by the Pioneers.

"I thought Tusculum was much more committed to executing and willing that execution than we were," Benson said. "We got out of sorts when Tusculum made it difficult.  We lost the plot. There's a responsibility on everyone's shoulders for that." 

Turnovers happened in bunches for the Eagles.  C-N had 14, right at its season average, but they happened in spurts.  Case in point, when the Pioneers made their 23-5 run, C-N turned it over four times in a four-minute period. 

During an 8-0 Pioneer run in the first half, C-N had six giveaways in a seven-possession stretch. 

Confounding the issue for the Eagles, the vast majority of the giveaways were live ball turnovers.  Tusculum tallied 12 steals, leading to 16 points off turnovers.

C-N has given up 48 points off turnovers its last two games.

Reigning SAC Player of the Week Caleb Hodnett keyed Tusculum with 20 points.  He made 4-of-8 shots from deep, keying a larger Tusculum effort from long range.  The Pioneers hit 11-of-29 shots from deep, the second most threes Tusculum has knocked down in one game this year.

Dillon Smith added in 15 on an unconscious 5-of-6 effort from deep.  Smith entered the game shooting 34 percent from three.

Tariq Jenkins, Donaldson and Trenton Gibson rounded out the Pioneers double-digit scorers with 12, 10 and 10, respectively.

Grant Teichmann (Brentwood, Tenn.) keyed Carson-Newman with 14 points and five assists.  Bates added in 13, albeit with six turnovers to boot to match an unfortunate career high.

Nick Rogers (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Parker Role' added in 12 and 10, respectively.

C-N shot 44.7 percent from the field, but just 36.4 percent after halftime. Tusculum singed the nets with 51.6 percent shooting after the halftime break.  The Pioneers finished at 48.4 percent for the game.

Carson-Newman takes on No. 10 Queens Saturday for senior day at 4 p.m. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 3:45 p.m. with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at