VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
WINGATE, N.C. – Carson-Newman (16-10, 13-7 South Atlantic Conference) made one of its final eight shots from the floor as Wingate used a 14-1 run to turn a hotly contested matchup into a comfortable 90-79 win Saturday evening at Cuddy Arena.
The win for the Bulldogs gives them the season sweep of the Eagles and extends a winning streak against Carson-Newman out to five games.
"Wingate is a veteran club," head coach Chuck Benson said. "They had five seniors playing on their senior day today. I remember playing those guys as freshman and sophomores, and owning them as underclassman. But they've owned us the last two years. The credit goes to them. They were an outstanding defensive team playing in front of the best crowd I've seen here in 10 years.
"We could not get a basket to fall. And they did. That's what it really boils down to in the simplest of terms."
Carson-Newman battled back from an early 12-point hole as Wingate came out firing on all cylinders. The Bulldogs took a 21-9 lead after making their first nine shots from the field, including 4-for-4 from deep.
"That was just completely stupid," Benson said. "I don't mean stupid on our part. I mean that it was completely stupid for them to do that. You can't do that alone in the gym unguarded. We couldn't do it either. We played the percentages and stayed with it. I was pleased with our kids poise. They never freaked out, we just kept on playing.
"I loved our response today. I saw it in the huddle. Malik was sitting there with some fight in his eyes, clapping it up, tying to be an encourager. I think a lot of people forget that defense only truly doesn't do its job if a shot doesn't go up. Teams are going to get off shots. If a ball is in the air, a team has a chance to score. They were launching them from long distance and dialing up on them. Credit goes to them."
The Eagles slowly but surely worked into the lead before getting it down to five, 47-42, by halftime. The Bulldogs knocked down the first shot of the second half on an Anthanee Doyle three before the Eagles ripped off a 12-2 run to take the lead.
Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) buried a trey from the right wing to put C-N in front for the first time 52-54, 3:45 into the second half. The Eagles and Bulldogs were tied six times, and the teams swapped leads another six times before the Eagles entered into the offensive doldrums with 7:59 to play following a Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) fallaway jumper from the middle of the lane. Wingate would rattle off a 14-1 run as the Eagles didn't score from the field again until the 1:09 mark on a Jones layup.
"If we had played man, we don't contain them," Benson said. "We wanted to challenge and entice them into shooting the long ball. They did it very well. I don't doubt that decision or second guess it, because if we go man, we get beat twice as bad."
Charles Clark led Carson-Newman with his four straight 20-point effort. The junior finished with 23 points, giving him 1,488 for his career. He passed Kyle Gribble for 12th on the all-time scoring list and is now the third best scorer in Carson-Newman history for the Division II era.
The Bulldogs knocked down a season-high 13 threes on 29 attempts. Wingate went a season-worst 4-for-18 from deep in the first meeting.
All five starters finished in double digits for Wingate. Josh Dominguez led the way with 22 points and seven assists.
"I want us to learn from these experiences and use it to improve heading into the tournament," Benson said. "I'm so pleased with where we are as a team because we bypassed expectations with eight fresh bodies and three major injuries. I've liked, and seen improvement in this team's response to adversity. I saw it as clearly today than at any other point this season."
The Eagles wrap up the regular season next week with a pair of home games against Brevard and Coker. The Eagles need to win one of the two, or have Catawba lose one of its next two to clinch a first round home game for the South Atlantic Conference tournament beginning March 1.
C-N tips off with Brevard on Wednesday at 8. 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.