JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (4-0) sets out to improve upon its best start in four seasons with tournament action at the Kentucky Wesleyan Classic Friday and Saturday in Owensboro, Ky.
The classic is a true tournament. The Eagles tip with Hillsdale (3-1) at 2 p.m. Friday. The winner advances to the championship game Saturday against the winner of the contest between host Kentucky Wesleyan (3-2) and Winona State (2-0). The losers play in a consolation game.
"We're very excited to be in a tournament with the caliber of competition as this one,," head coach Chuck Benson said. "Hillsdale is well-coached and have great offensive execution. They will be an extreme challenge for us offensively and defensively. Second day, to play either Winona State or Kentucky Wesleyan, those teams have rich histories and traditions. That will make the second round game every bit as challenging as the first."
Carson-Newman has started 4-0 for the first time since 2012-13. The Eagles opened up that year on a five-game winning streak before losing by 12 at Lenoir-Rhyne. Carson-Newman's last 6-0 start came during the 1987-88 campaign. That streak was ended with an 81-73 loss against Mars Hill.
The Eagles have as many wins this November as they generated for November 2014 and November 2015 combined.
One of the biggest differences for Carson-Newman over the course of a year is turnovers. Through four games last season, the Eagles were dead last in the SAC with 63 turnovers. This year, the Eagles have started 4-0 with good ball control. The Eagles have 44 turnovers, which is the lowest mark in the league.
Carson-Newman once again features a prolific scoring offense. The Eagles' 100.3 points per game is the top mark in the SAC and the third best tally in the country. The Eagles are shooting 51.7 percent from the field, which ranks 30th nationally. Meanwhile, C-N is shooting 48.1 percent from three, the crispy rate is seventh nationally.
Friday, the Eagles will have to contend with a three-point marksman from Hillsdale. Stedman Lowry is fourth in the country with 4.25 made threes per game. Lowry is averaging 19 points per game.
Kentucky Wesleyan dropped an 88-72 decision to Lincoln Memorial last week. The Panthers are one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country. They've taken the 11th most free throws nationally and made the 10th most.
Meanwhile, Winona State boasts the nation's second best scoring defense. The Warriors have allowed 49.5 points per game. At s 28.1 percent clip, their field goal percentage defense is the top mark in the country.
The games take C-N away from the friendly confines for the first time in two contests. Carson-Newman ranks 11th in the country in attendance with an average 1,421 fans filling Holt Fieldhouse for C-N's first two home games of the season.
Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) has morphed into an effective passing post for C-N. The senior forward is seventh in the country with a 7:1 assist to turnover ratio. For the season, Williams has 14 assists against two turnovers. He is tied with Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) for the team lead in assists and is the top passing forward in the South Atlantic Conference.
Tipoff between the Eagles and Chargers is set for 2 p.m. Pregame coverage begins at 1:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live