JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (6-0) will try to extend a 10-game home streak when it opens up South Atlantic Conference play against Mars Hill (1-4) Wednesday night at 8 p.m. inside Holt Fieldhouse.
Carson-Newman hasn't lost in Holt since Jan. 7, 2017, 79-77 to Wingate. Since then, the Eagles have won nine of their last 10 games by at least double digits.
Aside from the Eagles' 92-91 win over King last Saturday, all of those games have been decided by at least 13 points. Mars Hill has the closest margin of defeat on the Eagles' current home winning streak, falling to C-N 91-78 last year.
"We have some really solid veteran junior/senior status players," head coach Chuck Benson said. "They are really intent on performing at such a level that we have a legit chance to win every game. So far their follow through on that has been great. Hopefully we can continue that and not lose focus on the prize."
Carson-Newman has beaten the last 10 teams it's faced at home by an average of 22.9 points.
The Eagles have been stupefyingly efficient offensively on the streak. Carson-Newman hasn't shot below 50 percent from the field in the last 10 games at Holt. The Eagles are averaging 58.4 percent shooting and 46.3 percent from beyond the arc with an average of 10.3 made triples per game.
"We make a big deal about shot selection," Benson said. "Where shots are taken from and who's taking them. One of the more important factors has been the fact that there's been a great level of trust between our players and their willingness to share the ball, and keep the ball moving until it finds the right guy to take a quality shot. That's simplistic, but that's ultimately the bottom line."
The Eagles hope the torrid pace inside Holt Fieldhouse continues against the Lions. Carson-Newman is looking for its first 7-0 start since the 1973-74 season. That year, the Eagles reeled off wins over Clinch Valley (now UVA-Wise, Hanover, UNC Asheville, Union, Bryan, Belmont and Tennessee Wesleyan before falling to Cumberland 96-89.
The Eagles' all-time best starts came in '67, '61 and '60 (8-0). Carson-Newman hasn't won seven in-a-row in a season since 2013-14 when that team, helmed by Antoine Davis and Ish Sanders in their senior years, won seven straight in February before falling 77-60 at Lincoln Memorial in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
Carson-Newman is coming off a 99-69 stomping of Columbus State, the Eagles' largest margin of victory of the year.
For the first time all season, Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) did not lead Carson-Newman in scoring. The senior All-American only took five shots as Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.), Josh Murray (Burlington, N.C.) and Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) combined for 59 points to guide C-N to the win.
Regardless of a season-low 12 points last game, Clark guard is poised to move up the scoring ranks this game. Clark needs 19 points to move into a tie for sixth on C-N's all-time scoring list with Arnold Mellinger. From there, Clark can take aim at Ish Sanders (1,926 points) and fifth on the program's list. However, some numbers on the SAC's all-time scoring list are even more reasonably within spitting distance.
Clark needs six points to catch Tusculum's Kyle Moore, who sits in eighth with 1,813 career points on the SAC's list. A 24-point night would move him into a tie for seventh with Mars Hill's James Barber (1994-97), while a 28-point effort would move him into sixth with the Lions' Lamont Jones (1991-94). Clark's second highest career scoring night came against the Lions on the road in 2016 when he ripped off a 39-point game.
Carson-Newman features the nation's most efficient offense. The Eagles have shot at least 60 percent from the field in half their games and average 56.6 percent from the field for the year. Carson-Newman's worst shooting night came at UVA-Wise when the Eagles knocked down 50.8 percent of their shots.
Meanwhile Mars Hill is coming off an 11-day layoff from its last Division II game. The Lions lost to North Greenville 78-71 at Stanford Arena on Nov. 18. Mars Hill did play a game against Division I Winthrop on Nov. 21, a game the Lions lost 104-49.
Charles Moore, Justen Hartfield and Nassyr Daniel all lead the Lions with double-figure average efforts offensively. Moore is the top marker with 11.6 points per game. Hartfield and Daniel each average 10 per game.
"They're capable," Benson said. "They can make shots and have experience. They're veteran guys who can go out and make it happen. I'm just glad that we have our fair share of players too that have shown defensively that they may be able to impact their efficiency and effectiveness."
Daniel has turned into an effective rim protector. He leads the league in blocks and is sixth in the country with three a game.
Mars Hill's primary struggle this season has been preventing opposing offenses from being efficient. Lions' opponents are shooting 51.5 percent from the field, last in the league and eighth from the bottom nationally.
Tipoff between the Eagles and Lions is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday. 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.