JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – For the third time this season, Carson-Newman laces it up against a ranked team as No. 25 Newberry, losers of two straight, travels to Holt Fieldhouse for a 2 p.m. opening tip in a battle for third place in the South Atlantic Conference standings.
"I think the confidence is back in some players," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "There's a way that we want to play. It hasn't changed over the last three years. The only way we can do that is if we have productivity off of the bench. If we get that then we can go on a really nice run. After what I saw at Tusculum, I believe that the kids are excited."
Despite holding a 33-4 record at Holt Fieldhouse over the last three seasons, Carson-Newman (13-4, 6-3) is 1-2 at Mossy Creek against SAC schools to begin the year. It is the first time since the 2010-11 season that the group started 1-2 at home in conference. To find the last time the program went 1-3 out of the gates you have to go back to the 2000-01 campaign when it began the year 1-5.
Mincey's club matched a season high with 12 triples at Tusculum Wednesday night but it has been a struggle from deep at home this season. Last year, C-N made 40 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc at Holt making double digits eight times. This year, the club is converting 31 percent of its shots with no more than nine in any of the six games.
Saturday is the 46th all-time meeting between the two schools as Carson-Newman leads 28-17 having won five straight and nine of the last 11. The two exceptions came in January and March of 2016 when the Wolves won on their home floor. Newberry has lost four straight meetings at Holt Fieldhouse since an 83-75 victory on Jan. 25, 2014.
During the five-game streak, the average margin of victory is 19 points as three have been by greater than 20 points and only one has been by single digits. The Wolves are averaging 60 points with one effort greater than 65.
After grinding out a six-point road win in the first game of last year, the Lady Eagles waxed the Wolves 90-53 in Jefferson City using a 25-0 second-half scoring run. Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) is the only current C-N player to post double figures in both outings scoring 23 and 12. The senior has converted 10 of her last 16 three-point attempts over her last four games this year.
Newberry placed a pair of athletes on the first-team All-SAC roster but was selected to finish sixth this season. Meg Essex finished fourth in the conference in scoring at 17 points per game shooting 52 percent from the floor. Shelby Britten was not too far behind at 15 points on average.
The Wolves started the year 9-0 but are 3-3 in their last six including losses in each of the last two scoring 47 and 46 respectively.
Coach Joanna Tincher has the best scoring trio in the conference as Essex, Britten and Regan McCarty are third, fourth and 13th in the league posting a combined 49 points per game this year. No other player is posting more than 6.1 points per game. There have been only eight occasions where someone other than those three players posted double figures in a game, three of which have come in league play.
"When you have good players and the ball is going to go through you a lot, you are going to get a lot of shot attempts" Mincey said. "What has hurt us this season is someone coming off of the bench and going for a big number. When you are facing good players you can't take them out of the game altogether."
Essex went for 16 and 17 last season against the Lady Eagles making just shy of 50 percent of her attempts. She has been limited to single digits one time this year, eight points in a 10-point win over Catawba. The post player is 14th in Division II with 41 blocks and is just shy of averaging a double-double as she has six.
Britten scored 34 points between the two efforts but went 14-for-35 from the field and had nine turnovers. The senior is very consistent statistically this year posting double figures in all but two games. The SAC's leader in minutes per game also is tops in triples made (48) making 40 percent.
The Wolves are one of the worst teams in the country at protecting the ball registering 22 turnovers per game, 12th in the nation. That number jumps to 25 in league action as the club has had at least 16 in all but one game this year with nine 20-giveaway contests.
Newberry does excel in a couple areas ranking 21st nationally in rebounds per game (44), 32nd in three-point efficiency (36) and second in the SAC in field-goal percentage (43.1).
To watch the game, fans can access the Eagle Sports Network's broadcast on cneagles.com/live starting at 1:45 p.m. with the radio call on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville).
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