JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – For the first time in six years, Carson-Newman (3-0) will take on one of its oldest rivals when it welcomes I-40 foe King (2-1) into Holt Fieldhouse for the Eagles' home opener Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Carson-Newman and King collided every year from 1959-1987 when the Eagles moved into the South Atlantic Conference for hoops. Since making that move, the teams have sporadically faced off. Saturday's meeting will be the program's 76th. The Eagles lead the all-time series 59-16; however, the Tornado has won seven straight in the series. Chuck Benson is 0-2 against King in his head coaching career at Carson-Newman.
"We'll have to do a great job with poise offensively against them," head coach Chuck Benson said. "They throw a lot of different defensive sets against you in order to speed up the game. Then at the same time, we have to go in ready to defend the three. Coach (George) Pitts' teams have historically shown that they'll hoist up 40 to 50 threes. We always say that the style makes the fight. Our zone may entice them to shoot it quite a bit, so it'll be an interesting fight on Saturday."
In spite of the Tornado's current ownership of a seven-game win streak in the series, the Eagles have historically dominated it.
The Eagles won 19 in-a-row in the late 1950s and early 60s and 15 consecutively in the 1970s.
The last time the Eagles got together with King, the Tornado won in Holt Fieldhouse 79-71. That day, King made 18 threes on 40 attempts. The Tornado blistered out of the gates in the second half with a 20-5 run. The Tornado built a 17-point lead before the Eagles used a 16-5 run of their own to get it back down to single digits with under a minute to play.
On that day, the Eagles got a double-double out of Antoine Davis with 15 points and 11 boards. Ish Sanders poured in 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting.
While those names may ring familiar to C-N fans, the matchup bleeds with familiarity. Carson-Newman assistant coach Shane Williams was an assistant coach at King with legendary Tornado head coach George Pitts prior to coming to Carson-Newman.
Williams also played for Pitts in high school while the former was the head coach of the Science Hill Hilltoppers and Williams was on his way to becoming a Tennessee Volunteer. Together, they took Science Hill to the 1990 TSSAA State Championship. Through Pitts 39 collective years on the bench, he has amassed 1,017 wins against 294 losses.
Carson-Newman will turn as it has for the past four seasons to Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.).
With 1,749 career points, Clark ranks fifth among all active players in all divisions for career points. Clark has the most free throws made and attempted among all active players in NCAA Division II and the second most in all divisions.
He needs 14 more points to catch Ray Lettsome for seventh on Carson-Newman's all-time scoring list. Clark is 64 points away from catching Tusculum's Kyle Moore for ninth on the South Atlantic Conference's all-time scoring list.
Clark and company will be called upon to slow down King's Jordan Floyd. With 26.3 points per game and two 30-point outbursts against Tusculum and Lenoir-Rhyne, Floyd is the country's 17th most prolific scorer this season. Floyd also ranks 20th in the nation in steals per game with 3.33 swipes a contest.
The Tornado start the season with a string of four straight games against South Atlantic Conference competition that comes to a close with C-N.
King started the year in a conference challenge at Lees-McRae. The Tornado won its opener against Tusculum 101-94 before Lincoln Memorial shellacked King 94-60. King triumphed on the road in overtime at Shuford Gym 72-71 in overtime against Lenoir-Rhyne.
Tipoff between the Eagles and King is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 7:15 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.