JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Closing the book on 2016 with sights set on a more consistent 2017, Carson-Newman travels to Mars Hill for a 2 p.m. tip-off on New Year's Eve Saturday to restart a stretch run through the South Atlantic Conference.
Carson-Newman (6-5, 3-2) did not record a three-game winning streak over the first two months of the season. The last time out, the Lady Eagles made just five of 34 shot attempts, 14.7 percent, in the first half at Lenoir-Rhyne in a one-point loss. It was the first time since Nov. 17, 2012 that a C-N shot below 20 percent when it did so against Georgia College shooting 19.4 percent from the field in the opening frame. Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey sees that game as a learning note for the rest of the year.
"You hope that this will drive us," Mincey said following the loss at Lenoir-Rhyne. "We will look back on the first half a lot and say 'if you're going to play that way on the road you aren't going to give yourself a chance to win'. If we would have played halfway decent in the first half we would not have been in this situation."
Carson-Newman and Mars Hill (2-9, 0-5) are meeting for the 68th time as the Lady Eagles hold a 49-18 advantage in the all-time series. Mars Hill snapped a seven-game losing streak to C-N in the series with an 83-82 win on its home floor the last time out on Feb. 3, 2016.
C-N led by four with possession with 15.1 seconds to play when Jai Jai McLaughlin was whistled for a contact technical. After two made foul shots, Ansley Ricker hit a three-pointer with nine seconds left to help the Lions overcome a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Saturday will be the second time in the 39-year history that the Lady Eagles will play on New Year's Eve. C-N lost its prior two outings, a 71-66 setback to Fort Hays State in 2005 in Golden, Colo. and a 68-61 loss at Columbus State in 2011.
Preseason second-team All-SAC pick Paige Chavis leads Mars Hill, projected for a 10th-place completion to 2016-17. First-year coach Jenny Finora replaces Sarah Jansen who left for Queens after guiding the Lions to a fourth-place spot and a 14-8 SAC record last season.
The Lions have lost four straight games entering Saturday and are the only team in the league still searching for a conference victory. Mars Hill's two victories, Lees-McRae and Livingstone, have a combined record of 4-15.
Offensively, Mars Hill has had an issue holding onto the ball and scoring. Its 21.1 turnovers per game rank 283rd in the country having recorded fewer than 20 giveaways just three times on the year. The team's minus-five turnover margin in the 14th-worst in D2.
The Lions are posting 57.7 points per game on the year ranking 265th in the nation while making just 33.6 percent of its shots from the floor. In seven of the 11 games this season MHU has recorded a field-goal percentage under 35 percent.
On the defensive end of the court, the Lions are yielding 74 points per game, last in the conference, helping to contribute to the SAC's worst scoring margin of -16.3, 288th in the country. In the nine losses this season, Mars Hill has been defeated by single digits just one time, an 80-73 loss versus Wingate on Dec. 3.
Chavis is the team's standout player as she ranks fifth in the league with 16.1 points per night while registering the second-most minutes per evening at 36.1. Overall she ranks in the top-10 in 14 different statistical categories.
The Eagle Sports Network will be on location to broadcast the happenings courtside. Listeners can tune into the contest on Mountain Country 106.3 WPFT-FM or cneagles.com/live beginning at 1:45 p.m. with "The Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tip-Off".
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