JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (2-4) takes its basketball show on the road for the first time in three games with its first trip to the Peach State in more than five years. The Eagles tip with Clayton State (5-1) Tuesday at 7 p.m. from the Athletic and Fitness Center in Morrow, Ga.
The Lakers are ranked ninth in the latest iteration of the D2SIDA Region Rankings. The meeting will be the first between the two programs.
Carson-Newman hasn't lost to a Peach Belt Conference opponent since dropping a 60-30 decision to Georgia College at the Pioneer Invitational in Chuck Benson's second regular season game as head coach of the Eagles.
C-N had a vastly better performance its last time on the court, trumping USC Aiken – a Final Four team from a year ago – 87-65 in Holt Fieldhouse. The Eagles were able to correct several defensive issues and hold the Pacers to 20-of-70 shooting from the field.
Benson knows the Eagles will have another challenge on their hands Tuesday. The Lakers have a pair of senior leaders in their back court.
"They are winning with some veteran kids leading them," Benson said. "They've had sound, solid perimeter play. Hopefully we can build on our last outing and put another game on top of the USC Aiken performance."
Clayton State features five players who average nine points or more a game. The Lakers have four who average double figures. Jamil McKee and Kelsey Terry each average 15.3 points per game.
"They are both very athletic and can really attack the rim," Benson said. "They are more finesse than power. Our guys will need good vision and communication to keep them from easily penetrating to the rim."
The Lakers are outrebounding opponents by 10.2 boards per game and outscoring teams by 15.7 points. Clayton State is top 40 in the country in both those categories.
However, Benson hopes the Eagles are ready to take another "quantum leap," the term the Eagles' head coach used to describe their improvement on the court from the USC Aiken game.
"I'm hoping our team is like a participant on the Biggest Loser," Benson said. "You'll see these guys lose like 30 pounds in a week. We can make huge strides because we are so young and inexperienced. From Mars Hill to Aiken was a quantum leap, there's still so much more that we can do as a team to gain ground in chunks, as opposed to making slight, almost unnoticeable improvements."
Carson-Newman guard Jared Johnson can set a new career best for consecutive double-digit games if he scores 10 points against Clayton State. The senior from Massachusetts has scored at least 10 points in all four games of his senior season. He averages a team best 18.5 points per game.
Tipoff from Morrow, Ga. is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday. Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network gets underway at 6:45 p.m. with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.