JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – When Carson-Newman (6-3, 0-3 South Atlantic Conference) and Coker (2-5, 0-2 SAC) collide Saturday afternoon at the Deloach Center at 2 p.m., one team will exit with their first SAC win while the other will be left with a goose egg in the league wins column.
Carson-Newman has dropped its first three league games (Lincoln Memorial, Wingate and Lenoir-Rhyne), while Coker has lost its first two conference forays (Wingate and Lincoln Memorial). Carson-Newman hasn't lost four straight South Atlantic Conference contests since falling to LMU, Newberry Queens and Catawba in succession to start the 2015-16 SAC slate. The Eagles ended that skid by downing a nationally-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne team 94-89.
"This one is pretty obvious for why it's important," head coach Chuck Benson said. "Neither team has got a South Atlantic Conference victory. Both teams will be very hungry. My entire focus though is on us, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. I want us to be able to show that we can dig down and get stops no matter where we are and let that be something that generates offense for us. We need to change the mindset that our mentality is tied to whether we're making shots or not."
The Cobras haven't seen the floor since Dec. 1 against LMU thanks to finals and poor weather. Coker had a Dec. 8 contest at Mars Hill postponed.
Carson-Newman will be trying to extend a seven-game winning streak in the series. Coker won five of the first six meetings all-time, but the Eagles haven't dropped a contest to the Cobras since the 2014-15 season. Carson-Newman's seven-game win streak is its longest active win streak against a SAC foe. Carson-Newman has put up 100 points in three straight games with the Cobras and also logged three consecutive double-digit wins.
Carson-Newman has been a different team away from Holt Fieldhouse. The Eagles are 2-2 on the road this year. C-N has lost two straight away from the friendly confines. Carson-Newman is shooting 55 percent from the field and 45 percent from three inside Holt Fieldhouse.
On the road, those numbers dip to 44 percent from the field and 32 percent from three. The Eagles average 10 made threes a game at home and 4.5 on the road. Carson-Newman's overall scoring is also impacted with 87 points at home and 71 points on the road.
Oddly enough, Coker has been better away from home than in Hartsville. The Cobras are shooting 39 percent at home versus 44 percent on the road. That trend also applies to their effort from behind the arc. On the road, the Cobras shoot 32 percent from three, at home, the number dips to 25 percent. Coker averages 67.5 points per game at home versus 73.3 percent on the road.
"We anticipate that they'll be on their A-game and shoot the ball incredibly well," Benson said. "We'll do whatever it takes to give ourselves the best chance to win. We've had a good week of practice as our guys have been going through finals. It has to start on the defensive side of the ball for us."
Coker's Khalil Halls is fifth in the South Atlantic Conference with 18.4 points per game. In SAC play exclusively, Hall is averaging 22.5 points per game, third in the league. Halls has scored in double figures in every game. He has strung together three consecutive 20-point scoring efforts, including a season-high 25 in his last game against Lincoln Memorial.
"He's effective because he's versatile," Benson said. "He can shoot the three off the catch and dribble. He leads them in everything. One of the things we have to worry about is just not let him touch the ball. We can't let him get comfortable."
Carson-Newman's Grant Teichmann (Brentwood, Tenn.) is staring down 1,000 points for his career. The senior scored 471 points at Freed-Hardeman the first two years of his collegiate career. Teichmann has 499 points at Carson-Newman. He needs 30 more points to get to a grand for his career. The senior has never scored more than 26 points in a game in his career.
Tipoff between the Eagles and Cobras is set for 4 p.m. Saturday. Pregame on the Eagle Sports Network begins at 3:45 p.m. with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.