VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Carson Brooks Interview
VIDEO: Jared Johnson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (5-7, 3-3 South Atlantic Conference) quickly shook off the rust from a 17-day layoff for Christmas break with its most dominating defensive performance of the century in an 81-60 thrashing of Wingate (7-5, 4-2 SAC). The 21-point win is the largest for the Eagles' in the series' 54-game history.
Carson-Newman limited Wingate to 5-of-32 shooting in the first half. That comes in at 15.6 percent and is the worst shooting half of basketball by an Eagle opponent since the year 2000.
The Eagles held the Bulldogs to just 27 percent shooting for the game (17-of-63) – the worst field goal percentage by a SAC opponent since the turn of the century as well and the second worst all-time.
In 2009, the Eagles held nonconference opponent Hiwassee to 26.3 percent shooting in a 95-57 win at the LMU Classic. In 2011, C-N kept Newberry to 27.7 percent shooting at home in a 99-89 win (that matchup also featured a school-record 39 turnovers for C-N).
"We talk so much about if we're going to be a team that wins consistency, we are going to have to get stops," head coach Chuck Benson said. "I think it goes back to the journey we took this past week as a team. We didn't spend a lot of time talking about Wingate in terms of prep. We talked a lot about our core values and we had a lot of intense conversations and bared their souls. What we saw tonight was guys being more than about themselves."
Wingate only hit one field goal over the first 10 minutes of the game as the Eagles utilized a 10-0 run to build a double-digit lead off a Ryan Jones (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) layup with 10:17 left in the half.
The lead ballooned to 16 when Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) nailed a layup with 44 seconds left in the half. Wingate had cut it to six four minutes earlier; Williams bucket capped off a 12-2 run for the Eagles.
However, in spite of the Bulldogs' shooting woes, Wingate wouldn't go quietly into the night. Brian Good's club rolled off a 13-3 run spanning the halftime break to bring the deficit to six on a Lolar Zeriq jumper with 15:39 left in the second half.
Yet, Carson-Newman was able to respond to each Wingate run. C-N counted Wingate's spurt with a 7-0 run of its own on a Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) turnaround 15-footer. The Bulldogs would cut it to six on two other occasions; however, the Eagles were there each time with at least a 7-0 run to push the lead back out to double digits.
"Those runs go back to our kids showing poise," Benson said. "We weren't going to get down or discouraged. We had veteran guys down the stretch step up and finish plays, Carson and Sawyer in particular."
C-N saw a balanced scoring effort led by Williams' season-high 17 points. He was 7-of-9 from the field. Jared Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) followed with 15 while Brooks and Josh Rogers (Bristol, United Kingdom) each added 14.
Jones didn't show up in the scoring column, but stuffed the stat sheet in other ways. The freshman tallied a career high six assists, five rebounds and four steals.
"I thought tonight was the proof of the commitments our guys made over the last week," Benson said. "I saw a lot of kids who had bought in to what we are supposed to be about."
The Bulldogs were guided by Ryan Daye's 17 points. Zeriq Lolar had 12.
C-N hits the road Wednesday for its second meeting with Mars Hill. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. from Stanford Arena. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 7:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.