VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – No. 20 Carson-Newman (14-2, 6-2 South Atlantic Conference) will try to do something it hasn't done in five tries against the Wingate Bulldogs (8-8, 5-3 SAC) Saturday at 4 p.m. in Cuddy Arena. Win.
The Eagles have dropped five straight games to the Bulldogs. The Eagles haven't beaten Wingate since a 71-67 triumph in Cuddy Arena on Feb. 14, 2015. Since then, C-N has lost three consecutive games to the Bulldogs in Cuddy Arena.
"We know this is going to be a very tough matchup," head coach Chuck Benson said. "They play really well at home in spite of the fact that their roster was completely reworked. They play stingy defense with great ball control. We haven't fared well there the past few times. We know we have our work cut out for us."
Part of the Eagles' struggles of late against the Bulldogs boil down to offensive efficiency.
Carson-Newman has been among the nation's top 10 most efficient offenses each of the last three seasons. However, in the Eagles' five straight loss to the Bulldogs, they haven't shot better than 44 percent from the field.
In fact, Wingate has held C-N below 40 percent shooting in three of the last five games the teams have played.
Since 2012-13, the Eagles' field goal shooting has been the tale of the tape against Wingate. Carson-Newman is 5-0 when they shoot at least 45 percent from the field against the Bulldogs and 0-6 when they are under that ledger.
"The gym itself doesn't play into it, they're just a really sound defensive team that doesn't beat themselves," Benson said. "They force you to have to work. You have to be deliberate and poised to deal with the fact that they're not going to give you anything. You have to take it and earn, which is hard to do against them. You have to be tough enough physically and mentally to stay the course and execute against what they do, which is easier said than done."
The Eagles field goal struggles against the Bulldogs extend to an individual level as well. Reigning SAC Player of the Year Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) is averaging 19 points per game on 51 percent shooting, including 43 percent from three, for his career.
Against Wingate, he's averaged 14 points per game across seven contests on 38 percent shooting, including 27 percent from three. Those numbers are the lowest offensive numbers for Clark against all South Atlantic Conference teams.
Even with his struggles against Wingate, Clark needs just one point to move past former Lincoln Memorial All-American Luquon Choice and into third place all-time in South Atlantic Conference history for scoring. Clark has 2,038 career points. Choice has 2,039. Clark moved past Steve "Twinetime" Adams for third place all-time in scoring in Carson-Newman history with his 19-point effort in the Eagles' win over Tusclum.
Carson-Newman is looking for back-to-back road wins in league play for the first time this season.
Wingate's Kerigan Farley leads the South Atlantic Conference with 5.2 assists per game. He ranks 25th in the country with his 2.83:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"He does a good job getting into the paint and recognizing help defenders and getting it to the open man," Benson said. "He's solid. Then they have the nice one-two punch with Haskins and Lolar. Those three guys are really formidable."
He ranks second in the league in that category behind the Eagles' Grant Teichmann and his 3.50:1 assist to turnover ratio. Teichmann ranks 10th in the country in that regard.
Wingate has been nigh impregnable at home. The Bulldogs are 5-1 inside Cuddy Arena this season with the lone loss coming in their last game 77-75 against Lenoir-Rhyne.
Tipoff between the Eagles and Bulldogs is set for 4 p.m. Saturday. Pregame coverage from Cuddy Arena begins at 3:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.