JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Third-seeded Carson-Newman opens the 2019 South Atlantic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. inside of Holt Fieldhouse against sixth-seeded Lincoln Memorial.
"For us coming into the season there was such high expectations that to some degree I think we wanted to get through the regular season and get back to that tournament play where we had so much fun last year," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "For everybody, it starts a new season. Records are out the door. Yes we have a home game which is somewhat of an advantage. You have to go play and it's win and advance."
Entering the postseason, Carson-Newman (22-6) is the reigning tournament champion looking to be the fifth school to repeat. The Lady Eagles are seeking the seventh instance in league history to win at least two straight. Wingate has done in three times most recently in 2016 and 2017. Tusculum (2010-11) and Newberry (2006-07) have each done it and Presbyterian is the only program to do so in three consecutive campaigns from 1998 to 2000.
The Lady Eagles are one of four teams along with Lenoir-Rhyne, Catawba and Wingate to participate in each SAC Tournament since the first iteration in 1991 while hosting for the 18th time in 29 years. C-N is 16-2 having won 10-straight home opening round affairs. The last loss came on Feb. 26, 2002 when fifth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne won 85-76. The only other loss came on Feb. 27, 1997 to sixth-seeded Elon falling 83-71.
Carson-Newman is 26-26 all-time in the SAC Women's Basketball Championships with two titles in 2005 and 2018 appearing in six championship games in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2007 and 2018.
This season is the fourth time that the school is the No. 3 seed going 2-1 with the 1997 loss to Elon. C-N beat Mars Hill by 20 in 2008 and toppled Wingate 70-66 in 2010 losing in the semifinals both years by double figures.
Three seeds have won three of the last four tournament crowns with top-seeded C-N's 2018 run the lone exception to that. In fact, only No. 1 seeds are more successful winning 12 versus the eight won by three seeds. By round, third-seeded crews are 21-7 in the quarterfinals, 13-8 in the semifinals and 8-5 in the title affair. Two seeds have five crowns, four seeds have two and Newberry won as a five in 2006.
Wednesday is the 84th meeting between the two programs with C-N on top 50-33 as the teams will square off in the SAC Tournament for a third-straight year. The first came in the semifinals with Lincoln Memorial (15-13) winning on March 4, 2017, 72-67, before the Lady Eagles avenged that with a 79-73 triumph on March 3, 2018.
LMU had won all three postseason meetings prior to last season with the Railsplitters winning 88-74 on Feb. 25, 1989 and picking up an 86-78 win on Feb. 27, 1990 on their home floor the NAIA District 26 Tournament.
Mincey's unit had lost nine of the last 12 meetings until the tournament last year as the team has won three-straight against the 'Splitters. C-N had won seven in-a-row from 2009-13 prior to the skid that ended a year ago.
The two meetings this season produced double-digit victories for C-N, 91-80 in Harrogate and 81-71 at Mossy Creek, but the 'Splitters won the second half outscoring the Lady Eagles 81-72 after the break this season after being a combined minus-30 in the first half.
"When you have the twins, they just keep coming," Mincey said. "It doesn't matter what the lead is. It doesn't matter if they are playing bad. At any point in time they can flip the switch and start playing well. I have a lot of respect for those two kids because they bring it every single game."
C-N shot exactly 50 percent from the floor through the two outings including its second-best total of the season at home on Jan. 30 when it shot 54 percent including going 10-for-19 from beyond the arc. Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and six steals.
This season was a tale of two different teams for coach Krystal Evans as her team was 10-4 at home but 4-9 on the road having lost five in-a-row away from home since an 85-63 win at Coker on Jan. 26. While the percentages are similar, LMU is posting 10 fewer points on the road turning the ball over three additional times.
The Railsplitters have attempted (623) and made (449) the most free throws this season but are shooting 72 percent, the fifth-best mark in the SAC. The problem is that the team is one of the guiltiest on the other end committing the 19th-most fouls in the nation at 21 sending teams to the line 21 times per night.
The Griffith twins, Emily and Rachel, continue to lead the team in scoring combining for 41 percent of the club's scoring. Emily checks in with 16.6 and Rachel is at 13.8 while no one else on the roster posts more than freshman Lindsay Profitt's seven.
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 6:45 p.m. with "The AEC Countdown to Tip-Off".
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