JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (15-9, 12-6 South Atlantic Conference) hits the road for the final two-game trip away from Holt Fieldhouse before the SAC tournament with a rivalry matchup Wednesday night at Tusculum (11-13, 8-10 SAC).
Carson-Newman is looking for its first sweep of Tusculum since 2012-13. The Pioneers and Eagles have split the last three season series. Carson-Newman is 8-7 in Greeneville since 2003. The Eagles have had more trouble winning at home against TC. The Eagles have four wins in the last 15 games played in Holt Fieldhouse against the Pioneers, including this season's 95-84 win.
"It's a rivalry game with players, coaches and fans that this game means a lot too," head coach Chuck Benson said. "The players know what this game means. Our guys know that this game is a no-holds-barred must win situation. We feel the same. We need a complete performance that's deserving of a win."
In the first meeting, Carson-Newman held Tusculum without a field goal over the final 8:18 of the contest to whip past its rivals in a 95- 84 triumph. The Eagles would outscore the Pioneers 20-5 over that span, turning a four-point Tusculum lead into the 11-point win.
The win snapped a streak of back-to-back losses to the Pioneers inside of Holt Fieldhouse. Tusculum missed 14 consecutive shots down the stretch to help the Eagles to the win. The Pioneers lone points during that span came from five free throws.
The Pioneers will now try to pull the same trick that the Eagles did – win a game at home in the series. Tusculum is trying to win its first game at home against Carson-Newman since 2013-14. The Pioneers won 71-64 on Jan. 22 that year.
The Pioneers feature Cory Fagan, who has made a 3-pointer in his last 40 games (Jan. 9, 2016-present) the longest run in TC history. Fagan claimed sole possession of the record with his lone 3-point FG vs Belmont Abbey on Dec. 30, 2016, surpassing Pat Compton's string of 26 in a row from Nov. 20, 2000-Feb. 27, 2001.
Fagan is seventh in the SAC in threes made per game with 2.46. He is the top marksman on a Tusculum team that knocks down 9.6 a game. The Pioneers enter the game fresh off a contest with Coker where they knocked down a season-high 15 threes from deep.
"Tusculum is so balanced with aggressive driving," Benson said. "They have several guys who can go attack that rim and get to the free throw line, then go hit an inside-out three. We have to make sure that we get good quality contests and don't bail them out with fouls."
Meanwhile, C-N enters fresh off its best defensive performance of the year. The Eagles limited Lenoir-Rhyne to 65 points in a 28-point win, their biggest of the season.
Charles Clark became the first player in Carson-Newman basketball history to post a triple-double when he turned in a 24-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist performance in the win over Lenoir-Rhyne.
Remarkably, the bulk of Clark's work in the latter two stats came after halftime. He entered the locker room with 14 points, two rebounds and one assist. His second half featured 10 more points, eight boards and nine assists. For his efforts, Clark earned SAC Player of the Week honors for a fifth time in his career.
Clark is the league's second leading scorer with 20.4 points per game. He had 17 points in the first meeting this year.
The Eagles will look to slow down Tusculum's Kendall Patterson. Patterson leads the Pioneers in scoring. He went off for 27 points on Jan. 4. The three-point shooting threat knocked down 6-of-9 trey balls.
Malik Abraham was Carson-Newman's top scorer in the first meeting. He had a 21-point effort and a career best nine rebounds.
The Pioneers have billed the game as "Pack The Arena" night and a blackout. Carson-Newman fans are encouraged to wear their normal orange and blue.
Tipoff between the Eagles and Pioneers is set for 8 p.m. Pregame coverage for the contest starts at 7:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.