VIDEO: C-N v. L-R Highlights
VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Sawyer Williams Interview
VIDEO: Josh Rogers Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (5-6, 1-4 South Atlantic Conference) shot a net-singing 64 percent from the field and made free throws down the stretch to hand No. 20 Lenoir-Rhyne (8-2, 4-2 SAC) its first road loss of the season with a 94-89 win Saturday afternoon at Holt Fieldhouse.
The Eagles shot 72 percent from the field for the first half and were 34-for-53 from the field for the game (64.2) percent. All five starters hit double-digits while the Eagles turned it over a season low eight times to get the win.
"A lot of credit goes to our players," head coach Chuck Benson said. "We've had issues and adversity that have impacted us this year. But our guys wanted to finish out this fall semester on a strong note and do the best they could. The guys put it together and just pounded that thing inside."
The Eagles led by as many as nine points in the second half following a 14-5 run. However, Lenoir-Rhyne, the nation's fourth highest scoring team, wouldn't go away without putting up a fight. The Bears took their only lead of the day, 73-72 with 7:31 left in the second half, on a Jacques Chambers layup. It would be a short-lived lead as 20 seconds later, Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) was fouled on a drive and hit two free throws to give the Eagles the lead for good.
A Clark three with 88 seconds left gave C-N a two possession lead it would not relinquish. The Eagles converted on 7-of-10 free throws in the final 38 seconds to ice the game.
The Eagles were also able to put the game on the rocks thanks to ball control. Carson-Newman only turned the ball over once in the second half and the Bears didn't have any points off turnovers following the nine-minute mark in the first half.
That corrected a trend where the Eagles were averaging nearly 20 turnovers a game in conference play.
"I have no idea why we took care of the ball today," Benson said. "We didn't change a thing. Our guys understand why you shouldn't turn the ball over. They might have been just a bit more focused on ball security. If I really had the answer to that though, we wouldn't have been averaging 20 turnovers in the first place."
Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) paced the Eagles with 21 points, his second 20-point effort of the year. Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) added 20 to go along with 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the year.
Clark came a point shy of his third straight 20-point game. He finished with 19 on 5-of-10 shooting. Josh Rogers (Bristol, United Kingdom) went for his fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 boards. Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) chipped in 13.
Keenan Palmore led the Bears with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Will Perry added 17 while Reed Lucas had 16, all in the first half. Rob Noyes, who was averaging 16 points and 9.9 rebounds a game, was held scoreless and to just four rebounds.
"They are an elite scoring team," Benson said. "They do it with the three and then have Palmore who can get to the rim. We tried to pick our poison. More than anything, I think we beat them at their own game, we outscored them. I can't really give credit to our defense, because tonight was more about our offense."
The Eagles break for two weeks before returning to Holt Fieldhouse Jan. 2 against Mars Hill at 4 p.m. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 3:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.