JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With lofty aspirations and loads of returning talent, third-ranked Carson-Newman opens the 2018-19 regular season Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against USC Aiken and takes on Lander Saturday at 3 p.m. inside of Holt Fieldhouse.
"We didn't necessarily shoot the ball well at Carolina and Tennessee," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "We can obviously shoot better. We need to see the ball go through the basket. We need to see some of our pressure be able to effect an opponent. Obviously rebounding needs to be better.
"My biggest thing is that we are ranked third in the country. I was talking to another coach that is older than me. He was saying that we aren't trying to defend anything. We might be the defending [region] champs. We might have a No. 3 national ranking. The chances of going undefeated throughout the season can't be a goal for any of us. It has to be game-in and game-out, trying to do our best and improve."
The Lady Eagles are 28-11 all-time is season openers having won five straight since a setback to Coker on Nov. 9, 2012, 59-56, in Harrogate. The program has won the last four when starting the year at home dating back to an 81-79 setback to North Georgia on Nov. 16, 2007 when Megan Huffman hit a game-winning triple with 12 ticks left. Since 2000, the school is 7-1 when the first game of the year takes place at Mossy Creek.
Carson-Newman enters the season riding a 24-game winning streak at Holt Fieldhouse, the fourth-longest active streak in America, winning all but three of those efforts by double digits. A year ago, the Lady Eagles averaged 97.2 points per game at home posting triple digits in nine of the 17 contests.
Mincey's team opens its regular season for the fourth time against USC Aiken having won each of the last four meetings in successive seasons holding a 7-3 edge in the all-time series. The last time the Pacers won a game against the Lady Eagles came in the 2010-11 season opener on Nov. 13, a 62-36 victory, in Greenwood, S.C.
Last year, C-N won 93-57 at Aiken's Convocation Center marking its second-highest scoring output in a season opener and second-largest point spread to open a season in program history. Mika Wester led all players in scoring in the game with 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting as she chipped in eight rebounds and four assists.
The Orange and Blue have won five of the last six meetings to take a 7-6 edge over Lander including a pair of triumphs last year including a 96-85 victory over the Bearcats in the Southeast Region Semifinals. Kayla Marosites tallied a career-high 31 points and Wester picked up a career-high 11 assists as each filed double-doubles in the effort.
The Pacers have produced three consecutive seasons under .500 but get a strong piece of the puzzle back this year in 2016-17 PBC Freshman of the Year, Kwajelin Farrar, who missed last season with an injury. The post player averaged 14 points and nine boards as a rookie and had 11 points on four of five shooting versus C-N on Nov. 11, 2016.
Last year's club did not feature a senior as this year's edition has four including Star Toomey who had 10 boards against the Lady Eagles in 24 minutes off of the bench in the 2017-18 opener.
Junior Melyk Taouil registered nine points and five rebounds per game last season as she was the lone player for the Pacers to score in double figures against C-N last year with 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting.
The Bearcats have made four straight trips to the postseason winning at least 25 games each of the last two years. They were selected to finish third in the Peach Belt preseason poll.
Two All-PBC selections are back in the fold this year in guards Mylea McKenith and Jessica Harris. McKenith was limited to just four games a year ago with injuries but racked up 15 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals in a three-point loss to C-N in the first meeting.
Harris led the conference in assists as a sophomore. After scoring 19 points in a win over the Lady Eagles during her rookie campaign, she put up 19 points in the first outing in 2017-18 and had 10 points and five boards in the NCAA Tournament.
Each affair will air on 106.3 (WPFT-FM) and cneagles.com/live, both in audio and video form, as the Eagle Sports Network hits the airwaves starting 15 minutes before the opening tap.
- CN -