JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson knew the Eagles would need extra points against Milligan Saturday afternoon at Holt Fieldhouse. Leading scorer Antoine Davis (Rustburg, Va.) and his 17 points a game were out with a foot injury while eight point a game scorer Corbin Jackson (Rutledge, Fla.) was still recovering from turf toe.
What Benson didn't know is that two players would set new career highs and eight players would score nine points or more as the Eagles (7-1) led wire-to-wire in a 101-68 win over the Buffaloes (7-5).
"It's funny to think about it," Benson said. "Antoine's points weren't there. Corbin's weren't there. I'm surprised we were able to put 100 on the board today. But guys moved the ball well and we took high percentage shots. Plus we capitalized when we went to the free throw line."
Crane and Sanders both filled the stat sheet. Crane had six boards (five offensive), two assists and three steal to go with his career night in points, while Sanders grabbed four boards, dished five assists and picked five steals.
The five steals are career high for Sanders, who sits nine points away from joining the 1,000 point club at Carson-Newman.
"Collin's a guy that just brings it every day," Benson said. "He's never had a game or practice where he didn't give great effort. It's very rewarding to see him have a game like this."
The Eagles started the game racing out of the gates with a 12-2 run, capped by a Jared Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) knifing, driving layup.
That run, coupled with a 14-2 spurt with 8:28 to go in the first half topped put the Eagles up by double digits for the duration. Brandon Kelley (Nashville, Tenn.) hit the penultimate shot on the latter run with a body-contorting 'and one.'
The freshman obliterated his previous career high with nine, to go along with career days for blocks (4) and minutes (13).
Carson-Newman switched zones to keep consistent pressure on Milligan, forcing 28 turnovers leading to 36 points for C-N compared to nine points off turnovers for the Buffaloes.
"They are a team that can score points," Benson said. "We wanted to try to score some points of our own. We thought if we could speed them up, it might get them a little out of their comfort zones."
The win is Carson-Newman's first of the season without a 20-point scorer. The Eagles were 34-67 from the field for 50.7 percent. Carson-Newman has strung together five consecutive halves of basketball shooting better than 45 percent from the field.
However, the Eagles allowed Milligan to shoot 49 percent on 28-57 shooting – the highest shooting percentage for an opponent this season and the first time a team has shot better than 45 percent from the floor for a game.
"Defensive field goal percentage is something we hang our hats on," Benson said. "To let them shoot 49 percent is frustrating for us, but it's a testament to them as well. That's disappointing and our guys were upset with that."
The game was also the first where Carson-Newman failed to outrebound an opponent, the Eagles and Buffs were dead even with 32.
Corey Hendren had a game high 19 points for Milligan, with 11 coming in a four-minute span in the first half. Hendren went on a 9-0 by himself late in the first half. Marcellous Perez (Jacksonville, N.C.) and O'Dell Parker (Knoxville, Tenn.) were the other Eagles in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively.
The Eagles finish out the schedule before Christmas break Tuesday evening with a nonconference regional contest with Queens (N.C.). Tip is slated for 7 p.m. with a 6:45 p.m. airtime across the Coca-Cola Eagle Sports Network on 106.3 ESPN Radio The Zone (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com.