GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – For the 72nd time, Carson-Newman and Tusculum tangle on the hardwood as the Lady Eagles travel to Pioneer Arena for a 6 p.m. opening tip as the clubs jockey for fourth in the South Atlantic Conference standings.
"We are definitely not peaking," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "We still have a good record and are in great shape right now. We are still trying to figure things out. We are still trying to figure out our rotation. It's been a real burden on us. When we break up the top four scorers, we have lulls and when we have those lulls it's hard for us to get that momentum back."
Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) has seen her game escalate this month as the senior is posting 30 points per game over her last three shooting 65 percent from the floor going 6-for-10 from deep. In SAC games, the guard is averaging 23 points per game hitting 55 percent of her attempts.
After leading the country in free-throw shooting for nearly a month, Carson-Newman (12-4, 5-3) had missed 47 total foul shots over the first 14 games of the year hitting 83 percent. Over the last two games, the Lady Eagles have missed 19 shots going 37-for-59, 63 percent.
Mincey's group has won nine of the last 10 meetings entering Wednesday evening's tussle including each of the last four to lead 54-17 overall. The lone triumph for Tusculum (11-2, 4-2) in that stretch came on Feb. 17, 2016 at Holt Fieldhouse, 64-55.
C-N has won five consecutive road games in the series since the last time it left with a loss on Jan. 9, 2013, 55-51. The Lady Eagles led 33-21 at halftime but scored just four points over the final 5:30 of the game.
Both of the games a season ago were decided by 20-plus points as C-N dominated the paint outscoring Tusculum 104-56 combined. Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.) played a big role in that with 17 and 18 rebounds in the two games including 13 offensive. Briana Smith (Nashville, Tenn.) averaged 20 points per game going 13-for-23 from the field.
Tusculum edged out Lincoln Memorial for fourth in the preseason projections as each of its top five scorers paced by Sydney Wilson's 14.2 points per outing return, none of which were picked on the preseason clubs.
The Pioneers enter the game as one of the hottest in the region with seven straight wins, second to Anderson's 12-game mark. The last time coach Devan Carter's club was on the wrong side of the scoreboard came on Dec. 1 losing by 13 at Catawba.
During that stretch, the average differential has been 26 points with all but one coming by at least 14 points. The exception came on Dec. 19 at North Greenville as TC won 68-64.
On the year, the unit is one of 48 teams to be undefeated at home this season sporting a 6-0 record. Tusculum is averaging 81 points per game at home, 20 more than the average on the road. They have attempted 60 more foul shots and are turning the ball over four fewer times per game.
Turning teams over has been the calling card of the defense as the club ranks third nationally in steals per game (15), turnovers forced (26) and turnover margin (plus-11). Mia Long is the nation's leader in the category with 59 on the year averaging 4.54.
"They are feasting off of people's turnovers." Mincey said. "I think that is one area where they have been really positive. Teams they are playing against are turning it over and they are scoring off of those turnovers. That's the biggest key stat for them. They can score and they have hit a lot of threes. They want to speed you up and try to turn you over and try to get those easy buckets off of turnovers. If you want to have a chance to beat them you are going to have to take care of the basketball."
While ranking 28th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 36 percent, it is the best at defending the three-point line as teams are shooting 21 percent.
Offensively, the team is middle of the pack in almost all offensive areas ranking fifth in scoring average (72), fifth in field-goal percentage (40) and sixth in three-point efficiency (29).
Three players are posting double figures on a nightly basis and six are scoring at least 7.5 this year. Long is the team's leader in scoring at 13 per night. She was limited to nine total points a year ago against C-N going 3-for-15 from the field.
The game will be broadcast on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and cneagles.com/live for the radio calls. The Eagle Sports Network invites you to get your popcorn ready early and sit back to enjoy the high-octane outing between two Tennessee teams.
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