VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Charles Clark Interview
VIDEO: Shaun Jones Interview
Clark went off for 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He shot 6-for-13 from the field and went 6-of-8 – a career best – from three-point range. Clark's 10 assists came without a turnover. It's the second time this season he hasn't had a turnover.
The junior's performance came in front of the 2001-02 Sweet 16 team, which was in town for its reunion, as well as former Eagles and All-Americans Antoine Davis and Kyle Gribble.
Clark said they impacted his performance.
"I wanted to go out there and perform well in front of some legends and honor them with my play," Clark said. "This is a better day for us as an organization (getting a win over L-R) with a lot of old Eagles in the house."
Clark surpassed 10 points quickly. He had 14 at the break. His 10th assist came with 8:27 to play when he threaded a pass to the left block for a Parker Role' dunk. At that moment, he became the first player with a double-double with points and assists since Kente Hart had a 29-point, 10-assist game against Wingate in 2007.
Clark snagged the historic 10th rebound with 3:58 to play off a Ben Zemonek missed three. Head coach Chuck Benson immediately pulled him from the game for a curtain call and an ovation from the crowd of more than 900 on hand for the contest.
"He's a special player, and I've coached special players, but he's a one-of-a-kind guy," Benson said. "He has the pride to perform at such a high level knowing we had the 2001-02 team here today. You end up having Kyle Gribble and Antoine Davis in the house with their All-America pictures on the wall downstairs. He proved today that he deserves to be mentioned in that regard. This was a once-in-a-lifetime performance."
Clark's performance coupled with a spectacular second half for the Eagles. Carson-Newman trailed by one at the break.
Then Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) erupted. The junior only logged 10 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.
"I called Shaun out," Benson said. "He missed a shot on the first play of the game, and I thought he internalized it and allowed it to impact the next several possessions. I respect him a great deal and he's proven he's a warrior. But I called him out. He didn't show attitude. He set forth to rectify and redeem. That's exactly what he did."
Jones scored the first six points of the second half and eight of the first 12 as the Eagles turned that one-point halftime deficit into a double-digit lead, 55-44 with 14:51 to play on a Jones lay-in. Jones had 18 points after the break and 20 for the game.
The Eagles outscored the Bears 31-8 over the first nine minutes and 57 seconds of the second half as the lead ballooned to 20.
"The first half we exchanged baskets with them," Benson said. "The second we challenged them to go get stops. It just kept rolling and we turned those stops into transition opportunities. I give the credit to our guys for responding and digging down, making it difficult for our guys."
Lenoir-Rhyne missed its first 10 shots of the second half and started out a woeful 2-for-19 from the field. The Bears finished the second half shooting 21.7 percent from the field (7-for-32) and 16.7 percent from three (2-for-12).
The Eagles smashed on the glass. C-N went into the half with a six-rebound deficit. The Eagles proceeded to outrebound L-R 29-11 after halftime.
Meanwhile, the Eagles shooting turned extra crispy. C-N connected on 64.5 percent of its second half shots. The Eagles finished the game shooting 57.4 percent from the field and 48 percent from three.
Benson said the win and the way it happened were especially meaningful with the 2001-02 Sweet 16 team in town for its 15-year reunion.
"That's arguably the greatest team in the Division II era to play here," Benson said. "To have the players and staff here, and for them to get to watch our guys perform like that, I don't know if it could have been any better. You like it win a good plan comes together as an old TV icon once said."
Carson-Newman finished with five players in double figures. Aside from Clark's 24 and Jones' 20, the Eagles got 12 points from Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) and 10 apiece from Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) and Cameron Holmes (Fort Mills, S.C.).
Lenoir-Rhyne was led by Jarvis Calhoun and Darrion Evans, who had 20 and 12, respectively.
The Eagles hit the road for two straight starting with a rivalry matchup with Tusculum on Wednesday. Tip between the Eagles and Pioneers is set for 8 p.m. Pregame coverage begins at 7:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.