VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – No. 20/23 Carson-Newman (7-0, 1-0 South Atlantic Conference) will try to do something a Carson-Newman basketball team hasn't done in half a century when it travels to Newberry (5-3, 1-1 SAC) for a 4 p.m. tip on Saturday – win eight straight games to start the year.
Carson-Newman is looking to match the best start in program history when it heads to Newberry. The Eagles haven't won eight consecutive to start a season since 1964. The Eagles are looking to match the 1964- 65, 1961-62 and 1960-61 teams for the best start in program history. The 64-65 team suffered its first loss to Western Carolina 73-54. The 61-62 team lost in game nine to Oglethorpe 69-63. Meanwhile, the 60-61 team was beaten by Camp LaJeune 102-79.
"Our guys are aware of the historical significant, that's a motivator, but it's a shallow motivator," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "The bigger motivator is controlling our controllables and meeting our standards. We have to keep our mindset right there. Anything beyond that becomes a bit of a distraction."
While the Eagles' haven't started 8-0 in a half century, Carson-Newman will be aiming for its first eight-game win streak overall since 2003-04. That year, C-N won nine straight into the SAC quarterfinals before falling in the SAC semis to Catawba.
Standing in the way of the Eagles matching the program record for wins to start a season is Newberry. The Wolves have a slightly different feel compared to years past.
Since Dave Davis has been at the helm of the Wolves' program, Newberry has ranked among the top 10 in the country in scoring perennially. However, this year, the Wolves are averaging 81.8 points per game, which is still good and respectable, but just different.
"I don't understand what the changes were," head coach Chuck Benson said. "I still feel like offensively speaking, they are one of the most explosive teams anywhere. For whatever reason this year, they are under what they typically average. Their style still makes it so unique that we know it will be extra tough."
Newberry has dropped back-to-back tight games against both Bowie State and Wingate.
Newberry is guided by the triumvirate of Rob Valentine, James Stepp and reigning SAC Freshman of the Year Marshall Lange. The trio combines to average more than 47 points per game, led by Valentine's 17.3 a games.
The Eagles will look to slow that grouping down by continuing an excellent run of defensive form.
Last year, Carson-Newman only kept two teams under 70 points. This year, through seven games, the Eagles have already done it five times. Carson-Newman has the third best statistical defense in the league.
"We have more guys this year that really understand what we're doing defensively," Benson said. "We've adjusted our scheme subtly. Some of the focal points we've had in years past, we've evolved in our defensive package. We've seen some benefit from it."
The Eagles' senior guard Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) is poised to move up the scoring ranks this game. Clark needs four 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 also within spitting distance. Clark is eighth on the SAC's all-time scoring list. A nine-point night would move him into a tie for seventh with Mars Hill's James Barber (1994-97), while a 13-point effort would move him into sixth with the Lions' Lamont Jones (1991-94). Clark's averaged 23.5 points per game in his career against Newberry
Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) is averaging 20 points per game in his career against Newberry. What's more special is the fact that he is 28-for-31 from the field in his lifetime against the Wolves.
Josh Murray (Burlington, N.C.) and Shaun Jones are the two most offensively efficient players in the South Atlantic Conference. Murray's shooting 77.8 percent from the field. Jones is 73.4 percent. Murray would be No. 1 in the country if he had enough field goal attempts to qualify for the stat.
Tipoff from Eleazer Arena is set for 4 p.m. Pregame coverage begins at 3:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 16.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.