JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With a spotless 12-0 record in hand, sixth-ranked Carson-Newman plays its final game before Christmas break Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. when South Atlantic Conference foe Lenoir-Rhyne comes to Holt Fieldhouse.
"Our record has nothing to do with anything," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey iterated. "L-R is playing well and is coming in here. When you are in the situation that we are in now, the next guy wants to be the one that knocks you off. We have to do a good job of guarding our turf and not allowing anybody to come in and beat us. You can't give up home games in this league if you want to attain a top-four finish in our league or better."
With a 5-0 start to league play, the Lady Eagles are off to their fourth-best start in program history in league play. In 1991-92, the team began 8-0 to hold the best mark. A 7-0 start happened in 1994-95 and 2006-07 while a 6-0 mark opened the 2009-10 campaign.
Mincey's unit is looking for back-to-back wins over Lenoir-Rhyne (8-4, 2-2) for the first time in 17 games in the series when the head man was an assistant. The Lady Eagles beat the Bears in the NCAA Tournament 79-72 on March 12, 2010 and earned a win in Hickory 70-61 on Jan. 17, 2011.
Carson-Newman (12-0, 5-0) has won three straight home games in the series and holds a 41-28 all-time advantage that features a 22-9 mark inside of Holt Fieldhouse. On Feb. 11, 2017 inside of Holt Fieldhouse, the Lady Eagles led 31-10 after the first quarter before coasting to an 82-75 win. Four C-N players finished in double figures led by 20 points from Mika Wester with Katie Stubblefield chipping in 12 points and seven rebounds and Ashton Wykle tallying 11 points.
Four Bears ended the day with double-digit scoring efforts led by Chelsey Romero's 20. Brooks Robinson and Alecia Bell each had 15 points and five rebounds. Madi Suddreth notched 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
L-R was picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches' poll under first-year head coach Cameron Sealey. The Bears finished sixth in the SAC with a 13-9 mark in league action a year ago. L-R was almost unbeatable at home last season going 11-3 thanks to a defense that led the league in points per game at 55.4.
Entering Saturday's outing, Sealey's unit has won four straight games, the third-longest string in the league. Since losing its first road game of the year on Nov. 21 at Newberry, Lenoir-Rhyne has won four in-a-row on the road.
"They take care of the basketball," Mincey stated. "They have been in some hostile environments on the road. I have been very impressed with the job that coach Sealey has done with that group. She has taken some kids that didn't get a lot of minutes last year and put them in this year to be key contributor and stars. They haven't folded under pressure."
Powered by the conference's leading scorer in Suddreth, the Bears are third in the league and 50th in the nation with 75.6 points per game on the season. At 43 percent from the field, L-R is third while making 32 percent of its shot from long range to rank second in the league with 84 made triples.
Suddreth is registering 19.2 points per game on the year leading the country with 101 made field goals on the season while ranking second in the SAC in field-goal percentage at 56 percent. The junior has scored in double figures in all 12 games on the year with five 20-points efforts including a 35-point explosion against Lees-McRae on Nov. 25 where she went 16-for-23 from the floor. The forward has three double-doubles on the season and fifth in the conference with 7.9 rebounds per game.
The only player for the Bears to average double digits is junior guard Kendall Toineeta at 11.9 points per game. She leads the SAC and is 11th in the country with 6.4 assists per game to go along with six boards.
Defensively, the Bears are yielding a 37-percent shooting percentage, third in the league, while ranking 39th in the nation in rebounds per game at 43.7 per night. Sealey's squad does not force turnovers at a high rate ranking 267th nationally with 13.75 giveaways taken on the year.
While wrapping your gifts for those that you love, pour a nice, steaming, hot cup of hot cocoa and flip your favorite multimedia device to 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) for the radio broadcast or cneagles.com/live for the video and live streams starting 15 minutes before tip-off on the Eagle Sports Network.
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