JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – After a successful exhibition season, the Carson-Newman Eagles tipoff their 2011-2012 regular season on Friday night in Harrogate, Tenn. The Eagles face King College at 6 p.m.
The game is part of the South Atlantic Conference/Conference Carolina's Challenge played at Tex Turner Arena. Lincoln memorial University will face Erskine College at 8 p.m. C-N will face Erskine on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Eagle head coach Chuck Benson, who begins his second season, continues to preach "process improvement" to his young basketball team. C-N led Tennessee for the better part of 18 minutes in an exhibition loss in Knoxville last week. The Eagles tied East Tennessee State, who has reached two of the last three NCAA Tournaments, in the second half of an exhibition loss on Saturday. Now the Eagles have to piece together complete games against D-II competition.
"I'm excited to see our guys in a game that means something," Benson said Wednesday. "We're still very much process oriented. We can begin to measure ourselves against our level this weekend."
If the exhibition games are any indication, Benson's first recruiting class, coming off his first full year on the job, has some pieces to begin to build around. Sophomore swingman Antoine Davis (Rustburg, Va.) averaged 19.5 points per game in the two exhibitions, while freshman guard Jared Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) showed the toughness and productivity that will earn him a start at the point on Friday night.
"Antoine has been very consistent in terms of his daily growth in practice and workouts," Benson said. "He obviously carried it over to games and showed well in the exhibitions, while Jared has established himself as our point guard."
The Eagles would like to get their top returning scorers on track. Guard Ishmael Sanders struggled in the exhibitions, connecting on only 2-of-13 three-point attempts and averaging 6.0 points per game. The preseason All-SAC selection has missed practice time with an injury, but is returning to full speed as the season opens.
C-N comes off a season in which it started 2-7 and went 11-16. C-N will play 12 of its first 14 games in Holt Fieldhouse or on a neutral court. The Eagles only true road games before mid-January are Nov. 22 at Belmont Abbey and Dec. 3 at Wingate in its SAC road opener.
Carson-Newman will host Cincinnati Christian on Friday, Nov. 18 in Holt Field house at 8 p.m. as part of the Dick Campbell Memorial Classic.