JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (7-3, 1-3 South Atlantic Conference) and its resurgent defense will look to slow down the Southeast Region's most prolific scorer when the Eagles head up the mountain to take on the Lions of Mars Hill (5-4, 0-2 SAC) Wednesday night at 8 p.m.
The Lions are helmed by Ja'Shawn Brooks. Brooks is averaging a league-best 23.1 points per game. In two SAC games, he's averaging 31 points. His slash line is beyond insane. Brooks is shooting 49 percent from the field, 53 percent from three and 93.8 percent from the line.
"It's evident his confidence is extremely high," Carson-Newman head coach Chuck Benson said. "High confidence can allow players to do incredible things. We have to be intent to limit his effectiveness and impact. That will no doubt be a challenge for us."
The Augusta transfer has scored in double figures in every game, topping 30 against Catawba, Newberry and Warren Wilson. Brooks is the top scoring player in the Southeast Region and 14th most productive point producer in the country. He also ranks 14th nationally in threes made per game (3.56) and 13th in three-point field goal percentage. Brooks has made 28 consecutive free throws.
"He is so versatile," Benson said. "You think what he's done in conference play alone, it's truly unbelievable. He can beat you in so many different ways. Hopefully this gives us a chance to prove whether or not we are an elite defensive team."
However, it's not just Brooks. The Lions also added in USC Aiken transfer Javonte Cook. After missing the first five games of the season, Cook has made an instant impact with 15.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He's hitting 56 percent of his shots from the field and 43 percent of his threes.
Together, they combine with SAC All-Freshman teamer Austin Gilyard to form a formidable scoring trio.
The Lions are greatly improved this year. This meeting marks the first time in four years that the Eagles and Lions have squared off with Mars Hill in ownership of a winning record. Patrick Monroe drilled nine threes the last time it happened en route to an 84-73 win over the Eagles in Holt Fieldhouse. The is the first time the teams have both possessed .500 or better records since Jan. 9, 2010 when Mars Hill picked up a 94- 78 win over the Eagles in Stanford Arena
"They have much better personnel this year," Benson said. "They've injected new faces and upgraded their talent level on the court. They are a little more aggressive and free about their offensive approach, but that can only take you so far. They really have done a fine job recruiting to upgrade their talent level on the floor."
Mars Hill is unbeaten at home. The Lions are off to a 4-0 start inside Stanford Arena. They average 10 more points at home (91.5) than on the road (81.5).
Carson-Newman has won 10 of the last 12 meetings against Mars Hill. However, the last three games at Stanford Arena have either been tight, or gone Mars Hill's way. Austin Gilyard knocked down two inexplicable technical free throws in the final second for a 78-77 win for the Lions last year. The Eagles rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to win there two years ago.
Meanwhile, after struggling to find an identity on a recent three-game losing streak, the Eagles have turned things around with three straight halves of high level defensive basketball. After Fort Valley State just couldn't miss in the first half of a 95-67 loss to the Eagles on Dec. 8, the Eagles have limited the Wildcats and Coker Cobras to 32-for-106 (30.1 percent) shooting over the last 60 minutes of basketball. That includes a 6-of-33 mark from three-point range.
"It's what can give us a chance to win," Benson said. "Our defense has been a catalyst in our last two games. The thing I think our guys are learning is that one thing you can always do is defend, and that can be something that generates offensive opportunities for you."
Carson-Newman's Grant Teichmann 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 510 points at Carson-Newman. He needs 19 more points to get to a grand for his career.
Teichmann is leading the Eagles with 16.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
Malik Abraham needs to knock down six more threes to count 200 made triples in his C-N career. That would make him the sixth guy in program history with that many made threes. It would also tie him with Jesse McMurray (2005-09) for fifth on the all-time C-N list. He needs 27 more threes to start making his way through the South Atlantic Conference record book.
Abraham has made 50 percent of his threes (10-of-20) these last two games. Abraham has five career games where he has made at least six threes, including one already this year against Fort Valley State.
Tipoff between Carson-Newman and Mars Hill is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday. Coverage for the game will be available on the Eagle Sports Network starting at 7:45 p.m. with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.