VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
WILSON, N.C. – Carson-Newman (0-2) led for the first 31:29 of Saturday afternoon's contest against Mount Olive (2-0) in Wilson Gym at Barton's 45-Second Classic. However, an 8-0 run by the Trojans with 10 minutes left in the contest was enough to power UMO to a 2-0 start.
Carson-Newman begins its season 0-2 for the first time since an 0-3 start in head coach Chuck Benson's first season at the helm of the program in 2010.
"First of all, Mount Olive is a very good team," Benson said. "They're the pre-season number one ranked team in the Conference Carolinas. They've got a very experienced veteran club. A lot of juniors and seniors and they know how to play with poise. I thought we came out the first half and sort of won the first half on many levels, but our guys very, very much still in the process of trying to learn how to finish and understand that they've got to put two halves together. We did it last night, we did it again today."
Mount Olive outscored C-N 20-4 over a seven-minute stretch in the second half to put the Eagles down 68-59 with 2:17 left on a Dontrell Brite jumper.
The Trojans scorched the nets in the second half, connecting on 55 percent of their shots while the Eagles' shooting percentage cooled off to 34.5 percent for the second stanza after making 57 percent of their first half shots en route to a 38-34 halftime edge.
Mount Olive outscored C-N 8-0 on the fast break in the second half and doubled up C-N in the paint 24-12 after the teams came back out of the locker rooms.
Still with the second half shortcomings in back-to-back games, Benson was pleased with his team's progress, especially since the Eagles started three freshmen guards for the weekend.
"These are two of the better teams in this region," Benson said. "I think Mount Olive's an NCAA Tournament team. So any experience we get right now is better than what we had, which was none. We had no experience.
"With Jared Johnson being out this opening weekend, I thought that was a big factor for our team in terms of leadership and understanding of how to compete in at a certain level in college. Thankfully, I think we have Jared back for our next game and we just look at this and keep it in the right context. It's great experience and we're just trying to build on it."
After setting a SAC record with a 12-for-12 performance Friday night, Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) cooled off a tad with an 8-for-14 shooting effort and a game-high 17 points. Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) joined him in double figures with 10 points – the first double-digit scoring effort in his young career.
"Carson has shown a level of consistency for these first two games," Benson said. "Truth of the matter is he was sort of hampered with a groin issue and I was really sort of thinking we might not even play him, but he asked to play, and he played through the pain of that injury. He'll be ready to go for Wednesday's opening conference game at Tusculum, but again, I thought he stepped up and from an offensive standpoint led us. So we're really pleased with where he's at right now."
The Eagles outrebounded Mount Olive 37-33, but turned it over 16 times to the Trojans nine.
Carson-Newman stays on the road Wednesday to open conference play at Tusculum. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. with the Voice of the Eagles Adam Cavalier taking over the broadcast perch from Matias Osblarto who filled in over the weekend. The AEC Countdown to Tipoff begins at 7:45 p.m. on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.