HICKORY, N.C. --- The Lenoir-Rhyne men's basketball team used a 23-4 run spanning the end of regulation and into overtime as the Bears rallied to a 79-72 South Atlantic Conference win over visiting Tusculum Saturday afternoon at Shuford Memorial Gymnasium.
Lenoir-Rhyne (6-8, 4-4 SAC) trailed 63-54 with 2:32 left in the second half, but ended regulation with a 12-2 spurt and got a game-tying three-pointer from Billy Bales with 16.7 seconds to go to knot the contest at 65-65.
Donovan Donaldson potential game-winning shot at the buzzer no good for the Pioneers (4-10, 2-5 SAC) as the game went into overtime.
The Bears continued their torrid run into the extra period as Djibril Diallo scored on a layup, but TC's Brandon Mitchell tied the game at 67-67 with an offensive rebound and put-back.
L-R scored 10 unanswered as Bales made a lay-up and Cory Thomas converted a TC turnover into a three-pointer as the Bears led 72-67 with 2:58 on the clock. After a TC three-point attempt was blocked, Thomas put home a dunk for a 74-67 lead with 2:30 remaining.
TC committed its 18th turnover of the afternoon and Thomas added another bucket to make it a nine-point lead at 76-67. After a TC miss and a foul, Thomas made one of two free throws to give the Bears their largest lead of the game at 77-67 with 1:13 to go.
Donaldson drained a three-pointer to cut the deficit to seven (77-70) with 1:06 remaining but that would be as close as TC would get.
Diallo came within a rebound of a triple-double as he recorded 26 points, 10 assists and nine boards in his 42 minutes of action. Diallo went 11-of-18 from the floor and connected on his lone three-point attempt which sparked the 12-2 run late in regulation. Thomas came off the bench with 19 points including eight markers alone in overtime.
Tusculum's Peyton Woods poured in 22 points off the bench as he went 7-of-13 from three-point territory.
Donaldson's 17 points all game after halftime. Dashaunte Smith contributed 11 points as he went 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
After TC scored the opening bucket of the game, the Bears scored nine straight to take an early 9-2 lead. Tusculum would tie the game later at 17-17 on a Woods trey. The lead would change five eight times in the half, including at the 3:41 mark on Woods' second trifecta of the game.
Back and forth the teams went including a layup from Mason Hawks to give the Bears a 28-27 lead with 1:02 left before halftime. But Woods would stay hot for the visitors as he buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to give TC a 30-28 advantage heading to the locker room.
Tusculum opened the second period with a 10-2 spurt to take a 40-30 lead as Woods buried two more Treys and Elon Smallwood converted a pair of layups as TC led by 10 with 16:40 to go.
The Bears responded with seven straight points to catapult L-R to a 15-2 run over a span of 6:13 and a 45-42 lead.
Tusculum answered with a 7-0 run of its own including five points from Donaldson and a jumper from Baylark as TC led 51-47 with 7:04 remaining on the clock. Thomas converted a three-point play to make it 51-50 at the 6:45 mark. Donaldson scored five straight for TC while Diallo canned a layup and Thomas converted two free throws as the Tusculum lead stood at 56-54 with 5:39 left.
The Pioneers got fire and scored seven consecutive points as Smith made three of four free throws and Woods contributed four points on a trey and went 1-of-2 at the charity stripe as Tusculum led 63-54 with 2:32 left in regulation.
Diallo scored five straight with a trifecta and a layup and Bales followed with a three of his own to trim the deficit to one at 63-62 with 33 seconds to go. After a Tusculum timeout, Donaldson was fouled and he went made both of his free throw attempts to give the Pioneers a 65-62 advantage and setting the stage for Bales end of regulation heroics.
The Bears finished the game shooting 32-of-70 for 45.7 percent, including 5-of-6 in overtime (83.3%). Tusculum ended the game shooting 37.1 percent (23-of-62) and went 3-of-10 in the extra period (30%).
L-R edged Tusculum on the board 43-40 and outscored the Pioneers 50-22 in the paint. Mitchell led TC with eight rebounds while Caleb Hodnett finished with seven boards and Donaldson contributed six rebounds in the loss.
TC connected on a dozen three-pointers going 12-of-36 (33.3%) but went 1-of-8 in overtime from beyond the arc. The Bears went 7-of-19 from the downtown (36.8%).
Tusculum continued its resurgence in blocked shots as the Pioneers recorded 10 rejections, including four by Tobe Okafor and three from Mitchell. The 10 blocked shots are tied for the third-most in a Tusculum single-game.
The Pioneers return home to host arch-rival Carson-Newman on Wednesday night for an 8 p.m. contest at Pioneer Arena. Wednesday has been designated "Orange Crush" Night as the first 500 fans will receive a FREE Orange Crush T-Shirt. The women's game begins at 6 p.m. with gates opening at 5 p.m.