VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Mason Bates Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – No. 18 Carson-Newman (16-3, 8-3 South Atlantic Conference) reset its single-game team assists record and used a scorching second half to bury Newberry (9-9, 4-7 SAC) 109-87 Saturday evening inside Holt Fieldhouse.
The Eagles dished out 34 assists on 42 made baskets to reset the school record for assists, previously 31 set against Cincinnati Christian in 2011. The 34 assists ties a South Atlantic Conference record for most assists in a game between two South Atlantic Conference teams. Elon handed out 34 helpers against Lenoir-Rhyne during the 1990-91 season. Lincoln Memorial holds the SAC record with 37 against Hiwassee on Nov. 20, 2009.
"We talk so frequently about the styles making the fights," head coach Chuck Benson said. "Newberry's offensive and defensive styles create a high-possession, scrambled game. We were wise enough when that stuff started, that we shared the ball. We emphasized to our guys that the more we were able to do that, the better our percentages would be. Credit to them for being wise enough to do that."
Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) led the passing fury with eight dimes dropped. Reece Anderson (Douglasville, Ga.) reset his career high with seven assists, while Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) produced the eighth five assist game of his career handing out five helpers.
"We have multiple guys who have the skillset to do that," Benson said. "I think everybody wanted to make sure that they added value to that. They were willing, across the board, to give the thing up. They are so thorough in the ability to recognize and share."
The passing got Carson-Newman plenty of open looks against Newberry's frenetic defense. The Eagles shot a season-high 64.6 percent from the field en route to matching a season high with 109 points. Carson-Newman also went 14-for-30 from long range; the 14 threes are the second most the Eagles have made in a game this season.
"That was partly because of the way Newberry plays," junior guard Mason Bates said. "Coach Benson preached these last couple days that we didn't need to force anything. Just slow down and find the open man. We did that today."
The Eagles' offensive efficiency helped explode open a tight game once Newberry went cold.
The Wolves led the majority of the first half after barraging the Eagles with threes in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Newberry built a nine-point advantage on the back of an 8-for-13 start from beyond the arc. However, Carson-Newman pounded out a 26-3 run spanning the halftime break, then a 15-0 run later in the second half to bulge out a 22 points advantage. The Wolves went 8-for-32 from beyond the arc after their initial three-point barrage.
"We had to do a couple things schematically to get better coverage," Benson said. "The second half was where the benefit of those adjustments was most evident."
Cameron Holmes (Fort Mill, S.C.) provided the match that lit the Eagles powder ked. The sophomore knocked down a pair of threes in the final minute of the first half to tie the game at 53 heading into the locker room.
"Cam' offensive shot-making was good," Benson said. "But where he really impacted the game was defensively. He really in the second half made key stops. We kept getting stops, then we went and scored. Holmes was the key factor in all that."
Then, in the second half, he blocked two shots in the first three minutes of the half. Carson-Newman turned that tie game at the break into a 10-point lead, 66-56, nearly three minutes into the stanza. Charles Clark got on the fast break for a layup aided by a Holmes assist before Grant Teichmann (Brentwood, Tenn.) zipped a pass inside to Parker Role' (Atlanta, Ga.) to give Carson-Newman a double-digit lead it would not relinquish.
The Eagles stretched the lead out to 20 with 12:44 to play at 78-58 after Bates blew by Max Miller for a two-handed slam and Clark knocked down a three from the left wing.
Carson-Newman finished with six players in double figures for the second time this season (the first was against Lenoir-Rhyne on Dec. 16).
Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) paved the way with 21 points. He was 8-for-14 from the floor and 5-for-11 from three. Carson-Newman improved to 8-0 all-time when Abraham scores at least 20 points.
Clark followed suit with his 18 points and eight assists. Thanks to first-half foul trouble, Clark scored 15 of his points after halftime.
Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) added in 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
Six dunks tonight for @CN_Hoops by five different players. Matches C-N's single-game dunk record.— Adam Cavalier (@cavonthecall) January 20, 2018
Then the Eagles had a trio of stat-sheet-stuffing 11-point scorers. Holmes had his 11 with five boards, three assists and two blocks. He was 4-for-8 from the floor and 3-for-5 from deep. Grant Teichmann (Brentwood, Tenn.) had five boards and four assists to go with his 11 points. He two was efficient, going 4-for-5 from the floor and 2-for-3 from three-point land. Bates rounded out the scorers with 11 points, six boards and five assists.
Carson-Newman also matched a single-game dunk record throwing down six times against the Wolves. Five different players had slams. Josh Murray (Burlington, N.C.) added the most there with two dunks.
Newberry finished the game shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from beyond the arc.
The Wolves were led by Rob Valentine and Marshall Lange, who each had 18 points. Xavier Hill added 15 while James Stepp rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12.
The Wolves coughed it up 10 times after halftime leading to 19 Carson-Newman points off those turnovers.
The win came with the 1990-91 SAC Championship team in town for a reunion.
"Our guys knew that those old Eagles were here," Benson said. "They wanted to honor them with a win and a high-level performance. We did honor them with a win. We didn't have the highest level performance. However, some of that is credit to Newberry. Having those guys here was inspirational though, and I'm glad they had such a good time here."
The Eagles are back on the road for back-to-back games with a Wednesday trip to Mars Hill in store next. Tipoff from the mountain top is set for 8 p.m. Airtime on the Eagle Sports Network is set for 6:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.