JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman's (1-4) men's basketball program will play host to a team that made last year's Final Four before bowing out to West Liberty a contest shy of the national title game. The USC Aiken Pacers (3-3) will make their first appearance in Jefferson City since losing 105-72 to the Eagles in December of 2014.
However, much has changed even since last season. The Eagles are still working to replace All-Americans Antoine Davis and Ish Sanders while the Pacers lost 11 seniors and only return two players from last year's Final Four squad.
That's not to say the cupboard is bare for USC Aiken. The Pacers have two players averaging 19 points on the young season and another who's on the plus side of 16.
Junior guard Andre Anthony transferred into the program from Beaver County Community College in Pennsylvania and has promptly averaged 19.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for USC Aiken. He's connecting on 50 percent of his shots and 44 percent of his threes. Anthony is coming off a 23 point effort where he was 8-for-10 from the field in a 102-100 loss to Paine last time out for the Pacers.
Dominic Early is the other Pacer averaging 19 points a game; he slides in with 19.2 points per game and is also the clubs leading rebounder collecting 8.7 caroms per contest.
Furman transfer Keith Belfield rounds out the Pacers' double-digit scorers. He contributes 16.5 points a game.
The Pacers feature the best scoring offense that the Eagles have faced this season. USC Aiken averages 85.3 points per game.
Carson-Newman is led by senior guard Jared Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) and his 20.0 points per game. Johnson has hit 20 twice and double figures in all three games he's played in his final go-around for C-N. Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) adds 17.5 points for the Eagles.
C-N is looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak since the 2011-12 season when it lost three straight to Lenoir-Rhyne and Mars Hill on the road and Newberry at home. At the same time, the Eagles are trying to avoid just their second three-game home skid under head coach Chuck Benson. That occured in his first season with the program in 2010 when the Eagles lost to Wingate, Bluefield College and Tusculum on three straight home dates.
Carson-Newman is one of two teams in the South Atlantic Conference to routinely start multiple freshmen (Lenoir-Rhyne is the other), however, the Eagles are the only team in the SAC and Southeast Region to start three freshmen in the backcourt (both USC Aiken and Francis Marion have started two).
Tipoff Saturday is slated for 4 p.m. from Holt Fieldhouse. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network gets underway at 3:45 p.m. with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live. \