JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman did not hold a lead until redshirt-sophomore guard Katie Stubblefield (Alcoa, Tenn.) made a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining to give the Lady Eagles (4-0) a 70-68 victory over sixth-ranked Columbus State (3-1).
It is the first win for Carson-Newman over a top-10 ranked team since January 17, 2009 when the Lady Eagles defeated fifth-ranked Tusculum 90-87 at Holt Fieldhouse. Current assistant coach Ashley Kyle hit the eventual game-winner that night with 21 seconds remaining.
"I'd probably rank it No. 1," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said of where the game ranks for him in his career. "I know it's the fourth game of the season and it's a regular season game. Here at home we have high expectations here. We just couldn't get over the hump. They always had an answer. It was kind of an improbable victory."
Carson-Newman trailed by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter. It was 62-53 with 6:34 to play in the game. A 7-2 Carson-Newman run cut the deficit to four points with 4:03 to play. A layup by Michelle Mitchell at the 2:36 mark was the last points Columbus State scored in the game to put the Cougars ahead 68-64. A jumper from redshirt-freshman Kayla Newman (Alcoa, Tenn.) and a layup from sophomore forward Jecca Simerly (Talbott, Tenn.) tied the score with 1:12 to play. After back-to-back turnovers by the Cougars the Lady Eagles inbounded on the baseline. Stubblefield caught the ball in the middle of the paint and was fouled setting up the decisive foul tosses.
"I guess I was pretty confident," Stubblefield said. "I knew we were trying to run head-tap to get the last shot. Regardless of whether I got it or not, I've been working on free throws. I was pretty confident that we could pull it out."
Mitchell had a good look from just inside of the left elbow as time expired that rolled off of the right side of the rim to seal the victory for Carson-Newman in its home opener.
"We knew they were going to advance the ball," Mincey said. "We had two fouls we had to give. We were going to switch everything. We talked about potentially fouling them. At the end we decided you might foul them and they get three free throws. We decided to double 20 who is a fabulous player by the way. She missed. She hit those all night long. We are very fortunate she missed that one."
Carson-Newman went 9-for-14 from the floor in the fourth quarter after making just 5 of 15 shots in the third stanza. The Lady Eagles committed just five turnovers in the second half after having 10 in the first half.
Each side shot over 50 percent in the opening quarter as the Lady Eagles went 8-for-13 but trailed 23-20 after 10 minutes. Columbus State led by as many as nine points. A 9-0 Carson-Newman run over three minutes cut the deficit to one point as the visiting group closed out the first stanza with a jumper by Gabby Williams.
Columbus State went 5-for-16 from the floor in the second quarter but made all six of its free throws. Carson-Newman once again trailed by one point at 27-26, but the Cougars went on a 10-1 run to the 3:51 mark to extend the lead and went into halftime leading 39-33.
12 first-half turnovers by Carson-Newman yielded 12 points to Columbus State. Mitchell led all scorers with 13 points in the half on 6-for-12 shooting coupled with four steals. The Lady Eagles were led by eight points from senior guard Tatum Burstrom (Maryville, Tenn.) and Stubblefield.
Carson-Newman shot 50 percent from the floor on the night including a 58 percent clip from three-point range making 7-for-12 from distance. The Lady Eagles outrebounded the Cougars 32-25.
Burstrom led four double-digit scorers for Carson-Newman with 19 points making 5 of 8 from three-point range. Stubblefield tallied career-highs in points and rebounds finishing with 15 points and six rebounds.
"She is in this gym all the time," Mincey said of Stubblefield. "She's in here shooting free throws all the time. That's why you step up with 3.4 on the clock to knock down big free throws."
Mitchell led all players with 25 points shooting 11-for-19 from the floor while Ashley Asouzu had 14 points on the night.
The Lady Eagles begin South Atlantic Conference competition Tuesday evening in Harrogate, Tenn. against Lincoln Memorial. The opening tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the Eagle Sports Network will be on the air at 5:45 p.m. with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tip-Off on Mountain Country 106.3 WPFT-FM and cneagles.com/live.
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