JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Following its first regular season title in 21 year, top-seeded Carson-Newman, ranked seventh nationally, plays host to eighth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. in the South Atlantic Conference Women's Basketball Championships Quarterfinals inside of Holt Fieldhouse.
"We beat them by 12 here and that's the closest game that we have had in our home building," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "It's going to be a challenge. Once you get to tournament time it's crazy. It's tournament time. We've got the home court advantage. We have to prepare like we always would to be successful against a well-coached team that I know they are going to come in here with nothing to lose. They are going to give us their best game."
Carson-Newman (26-2) is 23-26 all-time in the SAC Women's Basketball Championships with one title in 2005 and five championship game appearances in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2007.
The Lady Eagles are one of four teams along with Lenoir-Rhyne (15-13), Catawba and Wingate to participate in each SAC Tournament since the first iteration in 1992.
It is the third time that the program enters the conference tournament as the top seed as it did so in 1992 and 1995. The Lady Eagles lost in the semifinals to fourth-seeded Wingate 61-60 on Feb. 26, 1992 and went to the title game in 1995 before falling to third-seeded Presbyterian 74-68.
The Lady Eagles have hosted a quarterfinal matchup 16 times winning 14 games including nine straight dating back to the Feb. 26, 2002 setback to L-R. The only other loss came on Feb. 27, 1997 to Elon falling 83-71.
The top seed in the league has advanced to the championship game in each of the last seven seasons but has lost in the final in each of the last four campaigns. Anderson was the last regular season champion to take home the tournament title doing so with a 55-52 win over sixth-seeded Tusculum on March 10, 2013.
In 26 SAC Tournaments, top seeds are a perfect 26-0 in the quarterfinals, 22-4 in the semifinals and 11-11 in the title round. The last time a No. 1 seed failed to reach the title game came in 2010 when Lenoir-Rhyne was bounced by fourth-seeded Tusculum 77-63 as the Pioneers went onto win their first of two trophies.
As C-N leads the all-time series with L-R 43-28, the two programs battle in the conference for the 12th time and third as a part of the one versus eight bout. The Lady Eagles won in 1992 by 39, 97-58, and in 1995 by 30, 88-58.
Overall, it is a 7-4 advantage for Carson-Newman in the conference tournament against Lenoir-Rhyne with the last meeting coming in the semifinals on March 8, 2014. The Bears were the top seed and held off a C-N charge to win 75-74. Jenni Gust hit the eventual winner, a three-pointer with 2:42 to play to break a 72-72 tie. Lashawnda Peacher had a jumper from the free-throw line in the waning seconds to win it but the shot came up short.
A win on Wednesday would be the third for C-N over L-R this season marking the fourth time that it has done that - 1991-92, 1994-95, 1997-98 and 2005-06.
Coach Cameron Sealey's club did not have a game on Saturday entering the contest after a week off. Her unit went 3-4 over the final seven games of the year finishing four games clear of ninth-place Coker.
"When you have seen teams twice you have to prepare for what you know they are going to bring and any new wrinkles – you have to guess," Mincey assessed. "We have seen a lot of things the way people have guarded us. I just have to trust that our kids are going to be ready to go."
The team vastly slowed the pace down when the calendar flipped to 2018. After scoring over 74 points per game in the first 14 games of the year, L-R is registering slightly more than 60 in 2018 despite the percentages across the board not changing vastly. Take out an 81-point showing against Mars Hill and the Bears failed to crest 50 points in three of its final six games including just 48 against C-N on Feb. 3.
Lenoir-Rhyne was the third-best road team in the league this year behind C-N and Wingate going 8-4 while shooting six points better from the floor than at home.
In a pair of meetings with Mincey's team this year, L-R has trailed for 76:45 out of 80 possible minutes. In the first collision at Holt, C-N led 36-33 at the break. The Lady Eagles held a lead at halftime in 18 games on the year. It was one of two times that the margin was not double figures at the break.
Madi Suddreth is the team's leading scorer at 14.6 points per game, eighth in the league. However she scored in double figures in three of the final six games. In the high-scoring outputs, she averaged 20 per game while shooting 60 percent from the field. She posted nine total points in 40 minutes against the Lady Eagles this year.
For those unable to attend, the Eagle Sports Network will be live locally on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) with audio and video streams available on cneagles.com/live starting at 5:45 p.m. with "The AEC Countdown to Tip-Off".
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