VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFEROSN CITY, Tenn. – For just the fifth time since Carson-Newman (4-0) moved to Division II in the early 1990s, the Eagles renew one of their long-standing rivalries with a former Volunteer State Athletic Conference foe.
The Eagles welcome Tennessee Wesleyan to Mossy Creek for a 6 p.m. tipoff Wednesday. It marks the 87th time the teams have played. C-N leads the all-time ledger 49-37.
The Eagles and Bulldogs have met just four times since Carson-Newman moved to Division II following the 1990-91 season. C-N is 3-1 in those meetings, losing 78-69 in 1998, winning 78-71 in 1999, 75-60 in 2010, and 98-74 in 2014. The two teams met every year from 1968-1991. The Bulldogs also represent the last NAIA foe that Carson-Newman faced. The Bulldogs are members of the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
"Some of my earliest memories of small college basketball in the area are back from those days with Carson-Newman, Tennessee Wesleyan and Lincoln Memorial all battling on this side of the state," head coach Chuck Benson said. "This was a great NAIA rivalry. Our guys don't have much knowledge of that. But I do. I'm excited to get to renew this old rivalry."
Carson-Newman will be seeking a fifth streak win to open up the year and the post-Charles Clark era. The Eagles have won 11 straight November games and are looking for a second straight 5-0 start. The Eagles haven't started 5-0 in back-to-back years since the 1972-73 and 1973-74 teams started 5-0 and 7-0, respectively.
Last year, Carson-Newman rolled to a 7-0 start before losing a road contest at Newberry.
Standing in the way of that start is a Tennessee Wesleyan club that has a potent one-two punch.
Ty Patterson and QD Cox combine to lead the Bulldogs with 29.6 points. Patterson is the most prolific scorer, and an excellent rebounder to boot. Patterson enters the contest averaging 16 points per game. The freshman is a double-double threat, averaging 9.9 boards per game.
Patterson, a 6-4, 235-pound freshman from Knoxville, Tenn., has been efficient and effective around the basket. He shoots 50.6 percent from the field.
"He's a big thick body, with a big motor," Benson said. "He's very physical. It says a lot that as a freshman he's at 16 and 10. Because he's a local guy, I'm sure he'll want to come in and make a statement."
As a result of Patterson's efforts, Tennessee Wesleyan is tops in all NAIA in terms of offensive rebounding. The Bulldogs collect 17.43 offensive boards per game. If Tennessee Wesleyan were in NCAA Division II, the Bulldogs would be eighth in the country. As a whole, TWU averages more than 44 rebounds per game, a figure that is 20th in NAIA. Its plus-seven margin on the glass is the 227th best mark in NAIA.
"They control their controllables," Benson said. "If it's based on effort, they've got it. They're really an energized team. They'll come in here with a lot of excitement, looking to find a road win. We've got to bring our A-game so we don't get exposed and taken advantage of."
Cox checks in with 13.6 points per game. He's averaging multiple threes made per game at a good clip. Cox fires away at 41.2 percent from long range.
The Bulldogs average 87.9 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting. TWU is knocking down 34 percent of its three-point shots with 7.3 made per game.
The Eagles are one of the best teams out there at defending the three-point line. The Eagles are allowing opponents to a paltry 22.6 percent shooting effort from long range, the top figure in the SAC and the third-best figure in the country.
The contest still has some holdover from the last time the two sides got together.
Red-shirt senior combo guard/forward Mason Bates is the lone remaining player from either side from the Eagles' 98-74 win over the Bulldogs in December of 2014. Bates got the start in that win en route to turning in his second career double-figure scoring effort (he now has 35 and has a career-long of four straight) with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He also had six rebounds that day.
Carson-Newman's offense has clicked at a high level through the first four games of the year. C-N is shooting 54.4 percent from the field, ranking seventh in the country.
If there's a complain for C-N's offense, it's the fact that the Eagles turn the ball over 17.8 times per game. That's bottom 30 nationally. However, the Eagles also share the ball well. C-N is ninth in the nation with 20.0 assists per game.
Grant Teichmann (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) lead the Carson-Newman offense. Teichmann has been stupid good of late en route to his 17.3 point per game average. He's got an absolutely absurd slash line of 70.6 percent shooting, 55.6 percent three point shooting and 100 percent free throw shooting. Teichmann is one of 40 players in the country who has yet to miss a free throw. Oh, and Techmann also has 7.5 boards per game and 6.5 assists per game.
Bates is chipping in 17.8 points per game and rides that aforementioned career-long four-game double-digit scoring streak.
Tipoff between the Eagles and Bulldogs is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday. Pregame coverage starts at 5:45 on the Eagle Sports Network with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.