VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
CENTRAL, S.C. – Carson-Newman (1-0) used its best defensive effort in four years coupled with a solid start to the second half to stiff arm Southern Wesleyan 67-50 to open the season Friday night at Tysinger Gym.
The 50 points the Eagles allowed are the fewest that Carson-Newman has given up since holding then No. 3 Lincoln Memorial to 48 en route to a South Atlantic Conference title at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Carson-Newman limited the Warriors to 31.6 percent shooting on the day and an 8-for-34 effort (23.5 percent) from long range.
The Eagles and Warriors were deadlocked at 23 heading into the halftime locker room. C-N had shot just 33 percent from the field in the first half and a woeful 1-of-10 from three.
However, while C-N had its struggles offensively, the Warriors were also mired in the offensive doldrums. Southern Wesleyan only managed to knock down 25.8 percent of its shots.
"This was a loud and intense venue," head coach Chuck Benson said. "We started flat offensively. By flat, I mean we weren't making shots. However, our defense was really, really good. That's what kept us in it. We were really able to regain our compsure at halftime and were able to punch them in the face pretty good. That helped us build a lead."
The Eagles exploded out of the gates to the second half, turning a tie game into a double-digit advantage in a little more than 90 seconds. Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) opened the period with a slam off a Grant Teichmann (Brentwood, Tenn.) feed six seconds into the half. Cameron Holmes (Fort Mill, S.C.) and Reese Anderson (Douglasville, Ga.) buried threes sandwiched around a Cam Andre (Kissimmee, Fla.) layup to go up 33-23 with 18:24 to play.
The Warriors would get no closer than seven the rest of the way. C-N would use a 12-2 run five minutes later to push the lead to 17. Carson-Newman led by double digits for the final 15:24 of the game.
"It's your first one," Benson said. "Anytime you can win on the road, it's a big deal. We definitely have to continue to evolve offensively and find our rhythm. That second half was what I want to see this year. If we can do that throughout the year, we're going to be ok."
The Eagles' offense fired on all cylinders after halftime. Carson-Newman knocked down 52 percent of its shots and went 5-of-11 from long range.
Bates and Anderson paced the Eagles. Bates led all scorers with 17 points, 12 of which came in the second half. He had eight boards to narrowly miss out on his fourth career double-double.
Meanwhile, Anderson reset his career high with 13 points. He was 3-of-4 from the field and, much like Bates, did the bulk of his damage in the second stanza. Anderson had 11 points after halftime.
Christian McClean was SWU's lone double-figure scorer. He had 11.
The Eagles were their own worst enemy at times. C-N coughed up 20 turnovers leading to 21 SWU points. However, C-N's defense also forced 16 Warrior giveaways. The Eagles converted 11 of those turnovers into 22 points.
Carson-Newman has a quick turnaround to take on Lander Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Coverage of the contest will be available on the Eagle Sports Network at cneagles.com/live.