VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Mason Bates Interview
MARS HILL, N.C. – Carson-Newman (6-7, 4-3 South Atlantic Conference) snapped a three-game road losing streak by weathering a late Mars Hill (7-6, 2-5 SAC) to hang on for a 64-62 win at Stanford Arena Wednesday night.
"Our defense has been the catalyst for everything we've been doing lately," head coach Chuck Benson said. "We shot the ball well because we were able to get the ball out in transition and get guys flowing."
The Eagles led by 12 with 7:11 to play following a Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) fadeaway three-pointer from the right win. However, Mars Hill utilized a 10-1 run to cut the Eagle lead as close as two. Yet, Carson-Newman would never allow the Lions to take the lead down the stretch.
C-N clung to a five-point advantage, 64-59, with two minutes left when Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) bounced to the right block to hit a running two-handed layup. It would be the last points the Eagles would score.
A minute later, Mars Hill's Michael Carson buried a high-arcing three from the right corner to make it a two-point game. Brooks got a look in the lane on the ensuing possession for the Eagles, but his six-foot runner bounced off the front iron. Ryan Jones (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) snatched the rebound and was fouled, but he failed to knock down the front end of a one-and-one.
The Lions went to Brandon McCarter for an open, albeit off-balanced game-winning three-point attempt in the waning seconds for the win, but his attempted rattled in and out.
"We didn't want to give up the three," Benson said. "We didn't want them to drive it in case a guy gets to the rim and have a chance at an and-1. I was happy with the shot he took, then Josh Rogers did a good job of tipping the ball long to prevent them from the possibility of a second chance opportunity."
C-N got a career high 15 points from Bates; he knocked down 3-of-5 threes. Brooks had a team high 16 points and eight rebounds.
"We needed them," Benson said. "We had a lot of motivation in this game. Carson stepped up and was a veteran. Mason came in and did what he needed to do as a young guy. Several guys made significant contributions tonight."
The Eagles locked down Mars Hill's Patrick Monroe, the guard who had 31 points on a school-record 9-of-17 shooting from three in the first meeting. Monroe started the day 0-for-10 and finished 1-for-12 from the field and 0-for-6 from three. Carson led the Lions with 23 points. He was 8-for-19 from the field and 3-of-9 from three.
"Since we came back from the break, I feel like we've been making strides defensively," Benson said. "Our defense sustained us tonight against guys who have the capability of making shots. It felt like we were really able to do some positive things against defending that three-ball, especially against Monroe. I thought we made him really uncomfortable."
In the first meeting between the schools, Mars Hill outrebounded the Eagles by 11. In this meeting, MHU only outrebounded the Eagles 39-38.
The Eagles shot 46 percent from the field including an even 50 percent (15-for-30) in the second half while limiting the Lions to 38 percent shooting and 28 percent shooting from three. The Lions eclipsed 50 percent in both categories in their 11-point win in November.
C-N returns home Saturday to face Queens. Tipoff with the Royals is set for 4 p.m. with pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starting at 3:45 with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.