Carson-Newman dominates in OT, takes down Lenoir-Rhyne  89-79

VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview

VIDEO: Shaun Jones Interview

VIDEO: Mason Bates Interview

HICKORY, N.C. – Carson-Newman (19-4, 11-4 South Atlantic Conference) ripped off a 20-point overtime session to complete a 16-point comeback and seal a season-sweep over Lenoir-Rhyne (9-12, 7-8 SAC) Saturday afternoon at Shuford Gymnasium.

The Eagles trailed by 16, 27-11 with 7:52 to play in the first half, before rallying for the fifth biggest comeback in school history.  The Eagles overcame a 17-point deficit against Lenoir-Rhyne in Holt Fieldhouse. 

The 89 points are the most the Bears have given up at home this season and the most that the Eagles have scored at Shuford Gym in Chuck Benson's tenure as head coach at Carson-Newman. 

"It seemed like our entire team rallied and had a greater sense of urgency and determination," head coach Chuck Benson said. "Charles Clark went into Super Bird mode.  He was hustling everywhere diving for loose balls that I haven't seen before.  This was overall a gutsy performance for him." 

Carson-Newman seemed to have the game in hand late in regulation after utilizing 11-0 and 8-0 runs in the second half to erase a five-point halftime deficit and turn it into a five-point lead late. 

Carson-Newman was up 68-63 with 1:07 to play in regulation following a pair of Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) free throws.  However, Clark turned it over twice in the final 60 seconds to give L-R a window to get back into the game. 

Djbril Diallo hit a layup to cut the lead to one, 68-67 with 29 seconds left. 

Clark tossed a ball into the stands trying to find a cutter up the sideline to break the Bears press.  Diallo tried to give the Bears the lead, but missed a 15-foot jumper that the Eagles' boarded. 

A Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) free throw on the ensuing possession gave the Eagles a two-point lead with five seconds left. 

Cory Thomas grabbed Abraham's miss and raced the length of the floor in five seconds to even the score at 69. 

"Charles had that refuse to lose mindset about him," Benson said. "He felt like we should have won that in regulation, and we should have.  He had two tragic errors and he knew it.  However, he wasn't going to give it away in overtime.  It wasn't just him. Malik stepped up down the stretch.  Shaun and Mason were huge on the glass.  They all stepped up."

The Eagles then took things over in overtime.  Carson-Newman put up 20 in the overtime session, nearly besting Lenoir-Rhyne's own NCAA record of 22 points in an overtime session. 

Clark scored eight of his game-high 24 points in the extra session while Abraham and Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) each scored six apiece in the extra session. 

Clark started the extra period with an and-one layin before rattling off an 11-2 run to grab an 80-71 lead at the mid-point of the extra session following two more free throws from Clark and a knifing layup for Bates. 

The Bears would get as close as five in overtime before Abraham hit a contorted jumper from the middle of the lane to stretch  the Eagles' lead back to three possession and cement the game with more than a minute left in OT. 

"This is a hard place to win," Benson said. "They have solid defense and versatile inside-out punch.  For us to get this W, speaks volumes to our desire. We had such a rim-attack mindset today.  We got to the rim and got to the line. We were intentional about that. That worked well too considering our threes were off today."

Clark guided the Eagles with 24 points, his 55th career 20-point scoring effort.  With his second bucket, Clark moved past Catawba's Antonio Houston and into second place all-time in league history for scoring. Clark has 2,178 points for his career and needs 146 more to become the league's all-time leading scorer. 

He went 6-for-11 from the floor and 12-for-13 from the charity stripe. 

Shaun Jones (Lawrencevville, Ga.) notched his 17th career double-double with 16 points and 10 boards.  He finished 7-for-14 from the field. 

Abraham and Bates rounded out the Eagles' double-digit scorers with 17 apiece. 

Carson-Newman started slow, only making three of its first 14 shots before finishing with a flourish.  The Eagles shot 64 percent from the field in the second half and 71 percent from the floor in overtime to finish at 51.7 percent from the floor.

The Eagles' 89 points and 51.7 percent effort from the floor are both high water marks for Carson-Newman in the Chuck Benson era for a game at Shuford Gym.  The Eagles hadn't shot better than 45 percent from the floor and scored more than 70 points at The Shu in his tenure as head coach. 

Lenoir-Rhyne got 22 points from Thomas and 18 from Diallo.  They and Reed Lucas were the Bears only double-digit scorers.  Lucas finished with 10. 

Carson-Newman smashed the glass, outrebounding the Bears 45-31, the Eagles' third biggest rebounding margin of the year. 

The Eagles get a week off before matching wits with No. 2 Queens on Feb. 10.  Tipoff Saturday is set for 4 p.m.  Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network begins at 3:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at 

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