JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Every Carson-Newman (8-3, 5-2 SAC) player that saw the court scored as the Eagles used a 30-8 first half surge to sweep the season series with Mars Hill (2-10, 0-7 SAC) thanks to a wire-to-wire 94-54 win Wednesday night at Holt Fieldhouse.
Leading 9-6 following a Carter Wright free throw with 15:50 left in the first half, Carson-Newman turned to Ray Likely (Eustis, Fla.) The senior, making the fifth start of his career and first of the season, knifed down the left side of the lane for an and-one, then, on the ensuing possession, bombed in a three from the left wing to spark the 30-8 scoring surge.
The Eagles would let Mars Hill get any closer than the halftime margin of 27.
"I had no doubts about Ray Likely," C-N head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "I didn't think it was evident watching the game as it happened with him in the starting lineup from the get go, and that's because we trust him as a senior."
Ish Sanders (Cleveland, Tenn.) continued his resurgence with a 28-point, six-assist, zero-turnover effort against the Lions. Sanders has back-to-back 25-point nights and has scored more than 28 three straight times against the Lions. Antoine Davis (Rustburg, Va.) provided the primary complement to Sanders with 17 points, six boards and three blocks, one away from his career high.
"I think that the balance we're seeing right now is due to the fact that we have guys who are capable," Benson said. "Before the Christmas break, I had done a bad job of putting too much pressure on Ish and Antoine. Our kids have really responded to the adjustments we made over the break to take some of that off Ish and Antoine."
The Eagles hit 48.5 percent of their shots, while limiting Mars Hill to 20.5 percent shooting for the first half and 29.6 percent shooting for the game. The Lions 54 points, first half shooting percentage and overall field goal percentage of the lowest the Eagles have allowed this year. It's the second lowest shooting percentage the Eagles have allowed during the Chuck Benson era (only Newberry's 27.7 percent shooting effort from Benson's inaugural season is lower).
"Our defense set a tone really out of the gate," Benson said. "The first meeting we didn't really get after them and they got their confidence. Opening the game that way really made the difference."
After the Lions finished with four players in double figures in the first meeting, C-N allowed only Amin Abuhawwas to break 10 points. He finished with 11 on three-of-five shooting from beyond the arc.
The win was C-N's first this year with less than three double-digit scorers.
The Eagles hit the road Saturday to face Queens. Tipoff from Charlotte, N.C. is set for 4 p.m. Pregame coverage begins at 3:45 on the Eagle Sports Network on 106.3 ESPN Radio The Zone (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.