VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (18-4, 10-4 South Atlantic Conference) makes the trip along I-40 over to Hickory, N.C. looking for its first win in three tries at Lenoir-Rhyne's (9-11, 7-7 SAC). Tipoff from Shuford Memorial Gym is set for 4 p.m. Saturday.
Shuford Gym has been one of the tougher places to play for Chuck Benson's teams. The Eagles have lost two straight in the facility and haven't collected a victory in the Shu since a 56-53 decision that set offensive basketball back 50 years in 2014-15 (Charles Clark's freshman season). The Eagles only other win at the Shu under Benson came in his first season at the helm of the program - winning 60-58 in another defensive struggle.
"I don't want to act like there's some magic or voodoo at their gym," Benson said. "It definitely didn't help during the Sawyer Williams era that he had intense migraines caused by the lighting. We have to go over there and do what we've done of late. Control our controllables. Be stingy defensively. Have high confidence. I don't want to make it sound like we've been cursed by going to the house that John Lentz built."
C-N has been held to 60 points or less in four of its last seven visits to the Shu. C-N hasn't shot better than 45 percent from the field at Lenoir-Rhyne under Benson. Carson-Newman has scored 70 points once at Lenoir-Rhyne under Benson, an 82-70 loss to the Bears on Feb. 11, 2012.
Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) needs just two points to move into second place all-time in scoring in South Atlantic Conference history. Clark enters the game with 2,154 career points. Catawba's Antonio Houston has 2,156 career points. Clark is 170 points away from the league's all-time record holder, Sean Barnette of Wingate. Clark can take over the top spot before the SAC tournament if he averages 28.33 points per game. A 24.29 point per game average would net Clark the record in the SAC tournament quarterfinals.
Clark collected his fourth career triple-double against Anderson in Saturday evening's 112-81 win. Clark scored 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 10 assists to match Lenoir-Rhyne's Keenan Palmore for the most triple-doubles in a career in South Atlantic Conference history. The 19-point triple-double is the lowest scoring triple-double of Clark's career, his others featured a SAC-record 54 points, 33 and 24 points.
Since losing to Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 17 and being held to a season-low 33 percent shooting effort, in the four games since, the Eagles are shooting 60.5 percent from the field since that defeat.
"Confidence has gone up for us for sure," Benson said. "So many things factor in. LMU was no doubt a low water mark for us and we had nowhere to go but up. Thankfully we have responded and are performing efficiently."
Similar to the rest of the South Atlantic Conference, Lenoir-Rhyne has been a different team at home than on the road.
The Bears beat The Citadel in an exhibition game in The Shu to open the year. They are 7-2 at home this season (2-8 on the road), with the only losses coming to No. 1 Lincoln Memorial and King in overtime.
Defense has been the name of the game at home for the Bears. Lenoir-Rhyne has kept every team but Newberry under 80. The Wolves scored 82 in a six-point loss to the Bears. L-R even held LMU, the nation's number two offense, to 72 points, the second lowest point total for the Railsplitters this year.
Carson-Newman rallied from a 17-point deficit earlier this season to down Lenoir-Rhyne 90-83 inside Holt Fieldhouse. The 17-point comeback is tied for the third largest come-from-behind victory in school history.
Jarvis Calhoun has been lethal of late against the Eagles. He's averaging 18.7 points per game against the Eagles over the last three contests. Perhaps more impressively, the guard is 14-for-25 from three-point range against the Eagles over that span. He's shooting 56.7 percent from beyond the arc, averaging 4.67 made threes per game against the Eagles.
"They're very balanced," Benson said. "They've got inside scoring punch with the ability to shoot the three. They have drivers. Then on the other side of the ball they have a defense that's hard to score against. They've got both sides of the ball covered. Hopefully we're going in there with our own confidence and motivations and can seize the advantage in this chance."
The Bears knocked down 15 threes when the teams met earlier this season in late December. Lenoir-Rhyne averages 32.4 percent shooting from long range with 6.6 made threes per game, a figure that ranks ninth in the SAC. The Bears haven't hit more than eight threes in a game since knocking down 15 against the Eagles earlier this year.
Tipoff from Hickory is set for 4 p.m. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network gets underway at 3:45 with the AEC Countdown To Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.