VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (12-11, 10-7 South Atlantic Conference) will head to Cuddy Arena for a Valentine's Day showdown with Wingate (14-9, 11-6 SAC) in what amounts to positioning among two of the top four teams in the league.
A Carson-Newman win Saturday at 4 p.m. coupled with a Queens loss at home to Mars Hill would mean that the Eagles, Bulldogs and Royals would all be tied for second place in the conference.
"I've been pretty pleased about how we've performed on the road this season," head coach Chuck Benson said. "We've just got to go out there and execute on both sides of the ball and take care of the things that we know we can take care of. I'm actually a little surprised this season by how well we have played on the road compared to how we've played at home this season."
For just the third time in series history, Carson-Newman has an opportunity to sweep the regular season series with the Wingate. The Eagles did so last season as well as the 1990-91 campaign.
Carson-Newman extended its series-long win streak over the Bulldogs to three games after the 81-60 win over Wingate on Jan. 3 in Holt Fieldhouse. The 21-point win was also the largest for the Eagles' in series history.
"I'd like to think that we'll be extra motivated," Benson said. "We've had some success against them in the past and hopefully that will build our confidence. And that's despite the fact that they're a very good team and very well coached. They always seem to peak at the end of the year."
As always under head coach Brian Good, the Bulldogs have one of the stingiest defenses in the SAC. The Bulldogs rank second in the league with 66.6 points allowed per game. Wingate has won four consecutive games and as such boasts the league's longest win streak at present standing.
Wingate has been one of the streakier teams out there this season. WU started the season by winning eight of nine, then losing six in a row (included in that streak was the Bulldogs' 81-60 setback to the Eagles) before taking its next three games. Back-to-back losses to Brevard and Coker preceded Wingate's recent four-game spurt.
Ryan Daye leads Wingate in scoring in his senior season. Daye averages 13.8 points per game.
"He's versatile, undersized, but athletic," Benson said. "He has a unique ability to knife to the rack to get penetration when you think that there's not a space for him to penetrate to."
The Eagles lost the turnover battle against Brevard 21-10 in its 63-60 home defeat to the Tornados that snapped the Eagles' five-game win streak. It's the largest turnover margin in favor of an opponent since the Eagles' turned it over 22 times to Lenoir-Rhyne's 11 in a December 2012 loss to the Bears at Shuford Memorial Gym.
Tipoff between the Eagles and Bulldogs is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Cuddy Arena. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network begins 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.