VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Josh Rogers Interview
HICKORY, N.C. – Carson-Newman (12-10, 10-6 South Atlantic Conference) used an 8-2 run to close and four Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) free throws to squeak out of Shuford Memorial Gym with a 56-53 win in tow over Lenoir-Rhyne (8-12, 6-10 South Atlantic Conference) Saturday afternoon.
"I'll take ugly wins over beautiful losses any day of the week," head coach Chuck Benson said. "Our guys played with a level of poise down the stretch. This place is so hard for us to perform for some reason. We had a couple key stops and were able to be aggressive with our north-south attacks late. Again, Charles Clark wins a game for us with his free throws."
The Eagles sweep the season series and win their first game on L-R's home surface since the 2010-11 season – head coach Chuck Benson's first with the program. Carson-Newman has extended its win streak to five games, its longest since winning seven-consecutive to start the month of February during the 2013-14 season.
The defensive slugfest saw Lenoir-Rhyne hold the Eagles to 36.5 percent shooting (19-for-52) to snap a five-game streak where the Eagles shot 50 percent or better from the field each game.
"They are so blue collar, tough and gritty," Benson said. "They focused in on what we do best, and that's go inside. Jake Wilson (L-R's seven-foot post) made it so tough for us to score with his long arms, length and ability to contest at the rim. We were fortunate that we were able to at the very end to pull away with some key stops and some free throws.
Carson-Newman trailed 51-45, its largest deficit of the game with 4:54 left after the Bears' Will Perry connected on a three from the left wing to finish off a 12-1 scoring spurt for L-R. However, the Eagles would stiffen down the stretch. The Bears would finish 0-for-6 from the field down the stretch as Carson-Newman closed on its 8-2 run.
Andy Barnett (Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) buried a corner triple and Clark cut to the rim to hit a driving layup to bring the Eagles within one, 51-50 with 2:54 to play. Two Bear free throws extended the lead back to three on the next possession.
Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) connected on a baseline jumper to bring the Eagles back within a point, 53-52 with 90 seconds left and set the stage for Clark's heroics.
The Eagles got a stop on a missed jumper by the Bears' Darrion Evan. Clark drove coast to coast and was fouled on the floor on the right side of the lane. The freshman calmly knocked down both free throws.
Out of a timeout, the Bears Justice Morgan drove the length of the court only to be called for a charge as he plowed through Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.). Clark received the inbounds pass with four seconds remaining, was fouled and knocked down two more free throws to give the Eagles the three-point edge that would become the final margin.
Carson-Newman was 0-9 this season when it trailed with less than five minutes to play in a game until snapping that streak against the Bears.
Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) led the Eagles with 13 points. He was C-N's only double-digit scorer. Clark added eight points and eight boards, while Josh Rogers (Bristol, United Kingdom) had eight points and seven rebounds.
Rob Noyes led the Bears on an efficient 7-of-10 shooting for 15 points. Morgan added 12. The Bears shot 39 percent from the field (18-for-46).
The Eagles had a season-low 20 points in the paint trying to penetrate against the Bears' bigs.
C-N returns home Wednesday with an opportunity to sweep its season series with Brevard. Tipoff from Holt Fieldhouse is set for 8 p.m. with pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starting at 7:45 p.m. with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.