VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Mason Bates Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Catawba (11-2, 4-1 SAC) raced out to a 28-6 advantage before stiff-arming Carson-Newman (8-5, 1-5 SAC) to an 81-64 win over the Eagles Saturday night at Holt Fieldhouse.
The win is Catawba's first on Carson-Newman's home floor since 2011. It snapped a six-game home winning streak for the Eagles over the Indians.
The Eagles started ice cold from the floor. The Eagles missed their first nine shots and started 1-for-11 from the floor. C-N didn't make its second field goal, a Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) layup, until the 8:31 mark.
"We couldn't make shots, that's always a problem," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "We utilized a strategy that we thought would give us the best chance, and we played the percentages. Catawba had not been a volume three-point shooting team. Then Jameel Taylor comes in and makes 7-of-9. Credit Catawba. They are a veteran team that was incredibly hungry. Catawba is just better than us right now. Right now, we're the guys that are having to take their medicine."
While the Eagles couldn't buy a bucket, Catawba drilled three after three. The Indians were 9-for-17 from long range in the first half. Jameel Taylor in particular was a thorn in particular. Taylor had 20 points by halftime, knocked down his first four triples and went 5-for-6 from long range in the first half.
"Our effort was there defensively," Benson said. "We challenged Catawba to beat us with threes. They did just that. We wanted to force them on the road and make threes. They did that. The bigger issues is that we didn't make shots. We could not get game pressure on them."
The Indians took a 49-21 lead into the halftime locker room. The 21 points are the fewest Carson-Newman has put up in a half this year. Furthermore, the 28-point margin was the Eagles' largest halftime deficit of the year.
C-N shot 24 percent from the field (6-for-25), its lowest shooting percentage for a half since a 7-for-27 effort in a second half in a 79-51 loss at Johnson C. Smith on Dec. 17, 2014.
"Catawba made it hard to get good shots," Benson said. "Tonight, our guys could not get good shots. They were unable to make plays tonight. They've made plays time and again in the past, it just didn't happen tonight. We had the right stuff. It was just too late."
Carson-Newman did rally in the second half after falling behind by as many as 30. The Eagles outscored the Indians 43-32 after halftime to set the final margin at 81-64. The Eagles pulled within 13 after a Luke Brenegan (Greenville, S.C.) with 7:27 to play. However, Catawba responded with back-to-back threes from Taylor and Devin Cooper to stretch the advantage back to 19.
Part of the Eagles rally was aided by C-N's defense. The Eagles held Catawba without a field goal for 8:35 while trimming the deficit down to 13. However, the margin was insurmountable for the Eagles.
"We have to make sure we are competitive," Benson said. "With this team, I have to give credit for our resiliency in the second half to try to see the glass half full. If you take your eyes off the scoreboard, we did things at a good enough level. We cut our turnovers down. We shot the ball well. But that wasn't enough to win the game."
Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) and Abraham paced the Eagles. Bates finished with 15, while Abraham added 13.
Taylor finished with 26 He was 8-for-15 from the floor and 7-for-9 from three. Ben Zemonek, Davin Cooper and Jordan McElveen all added 11.
The Eagles wrap up a three-game homestand Wednesday against Anderson. Tipoff with the Trojans is set for 8:00 p.m. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 7:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.