JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (9-6, 2-6 South Atlantic Conference) makes the short jaunt on 11-E east to Greeneville to challenge Tusculum (6-8, 2-4 SAC) Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Pioneer Arena.
The matchup is the 114th meeting all-time between the two programs. C-N leads the all-time ledger 83-30.
Carson-Newman is trying to win a fifth straight game against Tusculum. That's something the Eagles' haven't done in the 113-game history of the series since winning seven straight against the Pioneers from 1999-2003.
"There's no question that this has all the juice that a rivalry game should have," head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "There will be extra excitement. We know were taking on a team that's much better than their record indicates. They are very good defensively and have upgraded their roster. This will no question be a challenge."
The Eagles have gotten to this point against the Pioneers thanks to a highly efficient offense. Carson-Newman has made at least 50 percent of its shots against Tusculum five of last six times the teams have played.
However, that could be a taller task for C-N in the first of two meetings with TU in 2019. The Pioneers limit teams to 71.4 points (1st in the SAC), 41.4 percent shooting (4th in the SAC) and 34 percent shooting from three (4th in the SAC).
"They're a little like us from the standpoint that they use a lot of zone," Benson said. "JT has guys from a personnel stand point that really fit it well. They have guys who can protect the basket well and force you into threes and long twos."
The Pioneers have won three of their last five and two straight. The two losses in that stretch came at the hands of Belmont Abbey by two, 65-63 at home, and by three at Lenoir-Rhyne, 77-74.
Tusculum had four chances to take the lead in the final 14 seconds against the Crusaders.
Tusculum's Donovan Donaldson is one of the country's most efficient three-point shooters. The Trevecca Nazarene transfer is making 49.3 percent of his triples, good for ninth in the country. He knocks down 2.58 a game.
Tusculum has a weapon at its disposal that has been Carson-Newman's kryptonite. The Pioneers are six in the country and tops in the SAC with 15.43 offensive boards per game. The Eagles have been outscored mightily in second chance points this year. Carson-Newman is -101 in second chance points this year. Every team this year with the exception of Lenoir-Rhyne (a loss) and Anderson (a win) have grabbed double-digit offensive boards on the Eagles this year.
"We need to take another step forward," Benson said. "It took about a semester for this particular team to find its pecking order offensively. As long as we can stay committed to that, I think our offensive effort will improve. However, we can't let anything else slide like we did at Queens on the glass. We have to stay solid and stable in all other areas."
It's been a month since the Eagles last won on the road. C-N's lost its last two away from Holt Fieldhouse. The Eagles last triumphed away from home with a 79-63 win at Coker.
The Eagles are looking to win a fifth straight game at Tusculum's Pioneer Arena. The Eagles' last loss in Greeneville came on Jan. 22, 2014. Tusculum stopped a 13-game losing streak that day with a 71-64 triumph over the Eagles.
Mason Bates and Malik Abraham are both on the 1,000-point watch for their careers at Carson-Newman. Bates sits at 928 career points. Abraham has 893. They are seeking to become the 27th and 28th 1,000-point scorers in C-N men's basketball program history.
Tip between the Eagles and Pioneers is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday. Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network begins at 7:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.