JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (5-1, 0-1 South Atlantic Conference) continues a tough opening gauntlet to begin SAC player with a trip to Cuddy Arena to face off with Wingate (3-4, 1-0 SAC) Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
The Eagles enter the contest fresh off their first loss of the season, a 90-68 decision at Lincoln Memorial. Meanwhile, Wingate opened SAC play with a 77-68 win at Coker.
It's been a minute since Carson-Newman lost back-to-back regular season contests. The Eagles haven't lost back-to-back games in the regular season the last two years. The last time it happened was when C-N lost to LMU and Queens back-to-back on Jan 25 and 28 in 2017.
"We have to live in the moment and dominate that moment," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "We're not going to have a hangover from our last game. We don't focus on outcome as much as we do performance. Performances are so much more controllable. We need to search for a better performance than we had at LMU."
Carson-Newman will try to avoid back-to-back losses by doing something that doesn't happen frequently. Winning streaks against Wingate have come at a premium in series history. The Eagles are trying to string together three consecutive victories against the Bulldogs for just the fourth time in the 62-game history of the series. C-N has never beaten Wingate more than four times in a row (four meetings from 2013-14 to 2014-15).
This is a much different Wingate team than is typical. Last year, the Bulldogs shot 35.9 percent from three and made 8.5 threes per game. They were in the bottom half of the SAC in three-point field goal efficiency.
This year, the Bulldogs have transformed themselves into one of the South Atlantic Conference's best three-point shooting teams. Wingate hits 11.4 threes per game, the 20th best tally in the country and the second best in the SAC. The Bulldogs have been doing it efficiently too, at a 40.4 percent clip, third best in the league. Wingate has hit double-digit threes in four of seven games this year, including a bonkers 19-for-38 effort in a 104-87 beatdown of Belmont Abbey.
"You can see the game is changing," head coach Chuck Benson said. "A lot of programs are trying to get on board with those changes to give their teams the best chance to compete and win. Knowing the great and consistent program Brian has built, it's a bit surprising when you consider his track record and the type of player he was for Wisconsin back in the day. Wingate had been playing Midwest basketball in the Southeast, now they're running and gunning."
Part of the Bulldogs three-point shooting coming out party has been the efforts of senior guard Marco Haskins.
The guard is leading the SAC with 22.6 points per game. He's fourth in the nation for threes made this year with 29, or 4.14 a game. At 59.2 percent from long range, he has the fifth-best three-point shooting percentage in the country. Haskins hasn't shot below 40 percent from three in a single game all year. He only has one sub-.500 effort from beyond the arc on the year.
"We have to always be aware of where he's at," Benson said. "He's very difficult to contain because he's a big guard who can get into the paint and then to the free throw line. He's a legit, legit all-SAC player. He'll be extremely motivated, there's no doubt about it."
Haskins is complemented by two newcomers in Joshua Strozier and Jakob Dawkins. They average 13.3 and 11.3 points per game, respectively. They are the only two players for Wingate who have hit double-digit threes on the year. Strozier shoots 46.2 percent from deep, while Dawkins has knocked down 37.5 percent of his triples.
Since 2012-13, the Eagles' field goal shooting has been the tale of the tape against Wingate. Carson-Newman is 7-0 when they shoot at least 45 percent from the field against the Bulldogs and 0-6 when they are under that ledger.
Tipoff between the Eagles and Bulldogs is set for 4 p.m. Saturday. Pregame coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network starting at 3:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.