VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
The Eagles get rolling with the Warriors Friday at 8:30 while tipoff with Lander is scheduled for Saturday at 3.
"It's been a productive preseason," Benson said. "We've had a taste of outside competition with our scrimmages, but now it's time to start playing and see how much progress we've made from the start of the preseason till now."
Carson-Newman opens the season with two opponents its never played just once before in Southern Wesleyan and Lander. The Warriors are members of Conference Carolinas, Lander is a Peach Belt school that won 22 games a year ago. The Eagles beat SWU to open the season last year 83-69 before losing a halftime lead en route to a 72-65 loss to the Bearcats.
Carson-Newman men's basketball is 39-20 all-time in season opening games. The Eagles are 2-1 over the last three seasons in lid-lifters. Carson-Newman last opened a season on the road in 2014 when it lost at Barton 74-72.
Carson-Newman added Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) as the 23rd member of the Eagles' 1,000-point club in the SAC quarterfinals against Wingate, will head into his senior season second on the active leaderboard in Division II in career field goal percentage. He will rank sixth among active leaders among players in all divisions. Williams has 1,009 career points. Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) sits 54 points away from the 1,000-point mark and becoming member #24 for the club.
Carson-Newman is 9-8 against Conference Carolinas competition under Benson and 3-4 against the Peach Belt. The Eagles also notched victories against USC Aiken (PBC) and Limestone (CC) last year, in addition to the nonconference split with the Warriors and Bearcats last season.
"I think this year will be a little bit different for us," Benson said. "I make assumptions that we'll be healthy and have everyone, but I think this could be a deeper and more athletic team than we've had in the past. I think we could have a bit more balance inside-out. Defensively, we've got a chance to mix it up a little bit and be a multiple defensive team."
The Bearcats are led by senior All-Peach Belt Conference selection JR Washington, who averaged 19.6 points and set a school record with 99 three-pointers. Other key returners are Rahu Purdie, who was third on the team in scoring last season; and Sergio Smith, who is Lander's leading returning rebounder.
Southern Wesleyan was picked ninth out of 12 members in the Conference Carolinas preseason poll. The Warriors only lost two players from last year's team.
Tipoff from Horne Arena is set for 8:30 p.m. for the Eagles and Warriors. Saturday's game is set for a 3 p.m. start against Lander. Broadcasts for both games begin 15 minutes prior to tip on the Eagle Sports Network with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.