VIDEO: Chuck Benson interview
VIDEO: Zack Pangallo Interview
SALISBURY, N.C. – Carson-Newman (13-9, 10-6 South Atlantic Conference) rallied from a 13-point second half deficit, but fell in the final eight seconds, 77-76 to Catawba (15-6, 10-6 SAC) Saturday afternoon at Goodman Gym.
Rakeem Brown knocked down an 18-foot jumper from the head of the key with eight seconds left to put Catawba up 77-76. The game-winner negated a 20-6 Carson-Newman run and a furious Eagle rally that saw them take the lead in a game in which C-N trailed by 13 with eight minutes to play.
"Catawba is outstanding," head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "They have veterans, are junior and senior leadership and were at home. That's a lot to have to overcome. We challenged our guys to cut it in half in four minutes. They did that. We weren't settling. We were attacking the rim. I couldn't be happier with the resiliency. If we face this a month ago, we get run out of here. I wish they had been able to experience a victory after that unbelievable of demonstration of resiliency."
"Credit Rakeem Brown. He took the exact shot we wanted him to take – a tough, long, contested two. He made that exact shot."
The loss moves Catawba into a tie for fourth in the league standings with Carson-Newman. Both the Eagles and Indians are a game back of third-place Wingate. The loss also denies Benson his first crack at career win 250.
Even with Brown's jumper, C-N still had a crack at the win. Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) saw a layup attempt blocked out of bounds with 2.3 seconds left following a drive down the right side of the lane.
The Eagles had the ball out of bounds and went to Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) on the left block. The senior attempted an off-balance, six-foot hook shot that glanced off the backboard, then the right side of the rim and into the hands of an Indian as the buzzer sounded.
"That's our game-winner," Benson said. "That's our, 'break glass in case of emergency' play. I thought we executed it well. However, there was just a brief moment of hesitation. I blame myself. Maybe we should have gone with a different call."
All five starters finished in double digits for Carson-Newman. Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) had the team high with 17 points. Clark added 15, with 13 coming after halftime. Zack Pangallo (Newport, Ky.) and Williams each had 14. Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) added 11.
In a microcosm of the game, both Williams and Jones, two normally efficient players, were inefficient from the field. Jones made 3-of-12 shots. Williams went 5-for-13 from the floor. The Eagles shot 38.6 percent from the field – its second worst shooting performance of the year.
Even with the shooting effort, the Eagles' defense was good enough to give them a shot at victory. Catawba went 7-for-28 from three-point range, the second worst effort from deep by a C-N opponent this season.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Indians were able to crash the glass against C-N's zone. Catawba outrebounded C-N 41-37. The Indians had a whopping 21 offensive boards and converted those rebounds into 26 second chance points – the most second chance opportunities the Eagles had given up all season.
KJ Arrington led Catawba with 22 points. He went 10-for-19 from the floor after the Eagles limited him to a 2-for-12 effort in the first meeting.
Jameel Taylor added 19 points for the Indians on 5-of-13 shooting.
"Every experience we have is a learning opportunity. We have to take this experience and learn from it, responding to something similar in a cleaner, more focused fashion," Benson said. "We joke about the basketball gods. You always want them to smile on us today. However, sometimes I find that they smile on you for today, later."
The Eagles continue their string of road games Wednesday at Anderson. Tipoff with the Trojans is set for 8 p.m. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 7:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.