JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (1-2) renews one of its oldest rivalries when it plays old Volunteer State Athletic Conference foe Tennessee Wesleyan (2-2) for the 88th time Monday at 7 p.m. inside Holt Fieldhouse.
The Eagles and Bulldogs have met just five times since Carson-Newman moved to Division II in the early 1990s. C-N is 4-1 in those meetings, losing 78-69 in 1998, winning 78-71 in 1999, 75-60 in 2010, 98-74 in 2014 and 81-73 last year. The two teams met every year from 1968-1991.
Ty Patterson gave C-N fits last year in the Eagles' 81-73 win over the Bulldogs. Patterson put together a 26-point, 10-rebound double-double. He has been hyper effective this season, averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebound per game. Patterson is averaging 59.5 percent shooting and is a threat from long-range, going 5-for-11 from deep. Patterson was last year's Appalachian Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and a All-AAC second team selection.
"He's better now than he was then," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "He's a load and they've got other pieces. It's still early, but based on what we've been able to gather, this version of their team is better than last years. That's good because we need as many challenges as we can get."
Carson-Newman and Tennessee Wesleyan share some connections. Carson-Newman head baseball coach Tom Griffin is a Tennessee Wesleyan alum and a member of the TWC Athletic Hall of Fame. CarsonNewman head men's soccer coach Stephen Lyons played and coached for the Bulldogs before moving to Mossy Creek.
Only four players from the previous year return for the Bulldogs. Included in the returners are Patterson, Josh Chairs, Javel Gillespie and Djimon Wilson
Bolstered by a break-neck pace of play, Carson-Newman is averaging 96 points per game three contests into the season. That figure is 13th in the country. The 2007-08 team is the only one in school history to average more than 90 points a night over the course of the season.
"We've got to find the ability to perform on the defensive side for 40 minutes," Benson said. "We've got to put 40 minutes together and specifically do a better job of the defensive boards. Offensively, we need to be more versatile, because teams can try to slow us down."
EJ Bush (Oak Ridge, Tenn.) has been a star turned in his first three games for the Eagles. The Bryan transfer is averaging 20 points and 10.3 rebounds. He has two double-doubles, placing him third nationally. Bush leads the league in rebounding. He has made 29 shots this year to rank 17th nationally.
Reece Anderson has made a concerted effort to get to the rim and get fouled. Anderson has shot 30 free throws and made 19. He ranks ninth nationally in free throw attempts and 25th nationally in free throws made.
In part a by-product of uptempo pace, Carson-Newman has been hitting the glass. The Eagles rank 18th nationally with 46.33 rebounds per game. That figure is second in the South Atlantic Conference.
The Eagles are looking for their first back-to-back wins since winning three straight from Feb. 6-13 with triumphs over Mars Hill, Coker and Anderson. The MHU game gets an asterisk because it was played between two days due to a leaky roof in Holt.
Tip between Carson-Newman and TWU is set for 7 p.m. Monday. Coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network 15 minutes prior to tipoff with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.