VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Mason Bates Interview
VIDEO: Malik Abraham Interview
NEWBERRY, S.C. – Carson-Newman (15-13, 8-12 South Atlantic Conference) held Newberry (10-18, 5-15 SAC) without a bucket for two separate four-minute stretches and controlled both ends of the floor in an 89-78 triumph Saturday at Eleazer Arena.
The win locks up an eighth straight winning season for the Eagles, the second-longest stretch of consecutive winning seasons in the history of the Carson-Newman men's basketball programs. The Eagles had 17 straight winning records from 1959-1977.
"I want to say congrats to our players," head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "I really challenged our guys. We didn't want to push, we didn't want to have a losing record. We wanted to win or die trying and leave everything on the floor. Our guys responded to that today, especially our seniors. They really wanted to win this game. I couldn't be happier because this has been a challenging year with what we lost off our roster last year. I can't say enough about how pleased I am with how we finished today, especially when you consider it was their senior day, and this is a tough place to come and pick up a win."
Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga..) went off from long range. The senior marksman drilled 7-of-14 threes to move ever closer to former teammate Charles Clark for second on Carson-Newman's all-time list. Abraham has 258 career triples; Clark sits at 259.
"Malik made shots," Benson said. "He's a guy who has proven time and again that he's a shotmaker. I encouraged him, because we knew he was going to get looks today. Hopefully, Malik can chase down and surpass Charles' three-point shooting mark."
Abraham finished with a game-high 23, 14 of which came after halftime. He also added in four boards and a pair of assists.
Mason Bates (Cookeville, Tenn.) chipped in 19 points and seven rebounds. He knocked down 6-of-9 shots and went 7-for-10 at the foul line. Bates has scored in double figures in nine straight games, a career-long streak.
Carson-Newman and Newberry see-sawed back and forth for the first seven minutes of the game before the Eagles broke through. Carson-Newman turned Newberry over six times in a five minute span and the Wolves went 4:34 without points.
"We did a good job of taking stops and turning them into opportunities in transition," Benson said. "In the half court, we were really intentional about getting the ball to the basket and then passing out to create scramble situations. Then, we made open shots. It really is about that simple."
The teams were tied at 12 with 13:48 to play in the first half when the Eagles began their surge. Abraham sparked the run with a three. Cameron Holmes (Fort Mill, S.C.) sparked a transition bucket with a steal. Bates capped the run with a steal, layup and two free throws to set C-N up 11, 23-12.
Newberry slowly whittled the deficit down to four at the under-four media timeout. Then Carson-Newman again clamped down defensively. The Wolves wouldn't score the remainder of the first half as the Eagles closed the period on an 8-0 run.
Bates had the highlight of the spurt with an alley-oop slam on a fast break feed from Abraham. The run sent C-N into the halftime locker room up 46-34.
The Wolves would get as close as five in the second half, but a 14-3 run put the game on ice for the Eagles. C-N led by as many as 18 after halftime. Newberry did close the game on a 7-0 once garbage time hit to make the final margin a bit more respectable.
Carson-Newman held Newberry to 41.8 percent shooting and an 11-for-38 mark (28.9 percent) from long range.
"We were so concerned about their ability to shoot the three," Benson said. "We came over here with plan A to be to play man, and stop their threes with a chance to be in position to rebound. Instead, we ended up playing zone for most of that game. That's what worked. Those scoring draughts are a testament to our guys commitment to defending with pride."
Meanwhile, Carson-Newman's offense hummed along with 54.7 percent shooting. The Eagles buried 11-of-27 threes (40.7 percent).
Angelo Sales Jr. led Newberry with 19 points. He was 7-for-11 from the field. Marshall Lange added in 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Tai Giger and TJ Brown chipped in 13 and 10, respectively.
Carson-Newman heads into the South Atlantic Conference Tournament against top-seeded and No..9 Queens Wednesday in Charlotte. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network will start at 6:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on cneagles.com/live.