VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (9-1, 3-1 South Atlantic Conference) faces a tall task when it hits the road Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tipoff in the Queen City.
The Eagles tussle with unbeaten Queens, a team that hasn't won a game by less than 11 points this year. The Royals (8-0, 3-0 SAC) are ranked second in the NABC Coaches Poll and fifth in the D2SIDA Media Poll.
"Queens is very deserving of their ranking and they are, without question, an elite team," head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "They have everything you want in a team. They've got depth, experience, a stingy defense that's both versatile and flexible, shot-making from the three and a simple, yet very effective offensive scheme. Bart knows how to lead his team, and it'll be a challenge and an opportunity for us to go against that caliber of opponent."
This is Carson-Newman's seventh matchup with a team ranked in the top five under head coach Chuck Benson. The Eagles are 3-3 all-time against schools ranked in the top 5 under Benson.
Carson-Newman hasn't beaten Queens in four attempts. In that span, the Royals have rolled up a pair of 22-point wins (the largest in the series' 10-game history). The Eagles' last win in the series came in 2015 when C-N slaughtered the Royals on their senior day 87-62. Carson-Newman's three wins in the series have come by an average of 25 points.
To get past the Royals, Carson-Newman will have to compete with a hydra. Six different players have led the Royals in scoring through eight games.
"They're so balanced and have so many weapons, the likelihood of you stopping everything is not doable," Benson said. "You have to keep game pressure on them by going down and efficiently and effectively scoring. We hope that we can go in and not cave to pressure, but play confidently and purposely."
The Royals are led by Todd Withers and his 14.5 points per game, and preseason All-American Jalin Alexander and his 11.0 points per contest. They are two of five Royals who average double figures.
Mike Davis, Ike Agusi and Lewis Diankulu chip in 13.6, 10.5 and 10.3 points per game respectively.
Withers and Alexander are both remarkably efficient three-point shooters. Withers has knocked down 24-of-48 threes, including 6-of-9 against North Georgia, while Alexander is 13-for-26 from beyond the arc. Alexander was a perfect 3-for-3 against both Georgia College and Catawba.
"They both have NBA-plus range," Benson said. "Of the two, Withers is tougher to defend, because he's 6-8 and, unlike a lot of guys his size, jumps into his shot. Then, he has high lift on it and a quick trigger. Alexander is also tough to defend though. He's got this combo shot fake, drive that keeps you off balance. Both guys are so good. But you can't focus on just them because they have multiple threats that can do damage."
Davis and Agusi are both averaging at least 1.5 made threes per game on shooting percentages better than 39 percent from distance.
The match up features two of the top four offenses in the league and two of the top three best defensive efficiencies in the SAC. C-N is second in the league in scoring, Queens is third. QU leads the league in defensive efficiency while the Eagles are third.
Meanwhile, the record book watch continues for Charles Clark. The senior sits at 1,899 career points. He will look to become the sixth player in Carson-Newman history and the seventh in the South Atlantic Conference to hit the 1,900-point threshold.
Clark, the reigning SAC Player of the Week, needs 23 points to catch Carson-Newman legend Ish Sanders. Sanders sits in fifth on C-N's all-time scoring list and fourth in the SAC. Clark needs six points to bypass Chuck Rayford (Presbyterian) for sixth on the SAC's all-time scoring list.
Clark has scored in double figures in every game of his collegiate career from his sophomore year on, save for one. Last year at Queens, Clark was limited to seven points (and only three shot attempts) in 17 foul hampered minutes.
That snapped Clark's school-record streak of consecutive double-digit efforts at 52. Queens, Anderson and Coker are the only schools to hold Clark to single digits twice (with the latter two doing it in Clark's freshman season and both before Clark became a formidable threat in the second semester of that year). He has scored in double figures in 71 of Carson-Newman's last 72 games. In 101 career games for the Eagles, Clark has hit double figures 84 times
Tipoff between the Eagles and Royals is set for 8 p.m. 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.