GREENWOOD, S.C. --- Caleb Hodnett scored a career-high 21 points and matched his career best with 13 rebounds as Tusculum University defeated Lander University 73-62 in men's basketball action Wednesday night at Finis Horne Arena.
Donovan Donaldson added 13 points and six rebounds and Cam King had a game-high 14 boards for the Pioneers (1-2), who gave first-year head coach JT Burton his first win on the Tusculum sidelines. Tusculum outrebounded Lander 56-41, including 23 offensive rebounds that led to 22 second-chance points. King's 14 rebounds were the most for a Pioneer since Matt Shown had 16 boards against Lenoir-Rhyne on Feb. 21, 2015.
Marquel Wiggins led the Bearcats (1-2) with 17 points, but Rahu Purdie was the only other player to reach double figures with 11 points as Lander shot 33.8 percent (22-for-65) overall and just 9-for-34 (26.5 percent) in the second half, including 0-for-9 from three-point range. The Bearcats fell to 0-4 all-time against the Pioneers on their home court, with their previous loss coming in 2005.
Hodnett's 21 points surpassed his previous career high of 18 points set in the season opener against USC Aiken last Friday night, while his 13 rebounds equaled his career best set on Dec. 11, 2017 against Coker. Hodnett also added a career-high three blocked shots and dished out three assists, going 9-for-15 from the field and 3-for-6 from three-point range.
Trenton Gibson also reached double figures for the Pioneers with 12 points, while Tariq Jenkins and Brandon Mitchell had eight points apiece. Mitchell had five rebounds and three blocked shots in 19 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers, who hit 36.8 percent (25-for-68) from the field and 16-for-25 from the foul line in the win.
After Purdie opened the scoring with a three-pointer on the game's first possession, the Pioneers answered on back-to-back three-pointers by Hodnett and Donaldson to go up 6-3 after less than two minutes.
Back-to-back baskets by King and Hodnett pushed the Pioneers to a 12-8 lead with 14:47 left in the opening half, but a 5-0 surge gave Lander the lead back at 13-12 with 13:53 to go. Tusculum regained the lead at 16-13 on baskets by Adrian Cohen and Myles Jones, only to see Lander go back in front 18-16 on a layup by Justin Holliday with 10:02 left in the half.
Donaldson's second three of the half gave the Pioneers a 21-20 lead with 8:22 to go in the half, and the lead was extended to 24-20 on a foul shot by Gibson with exactly seven minutes to play. Another 5-0 run, which included another three-pointer by Purdie, pushed Lander back in front 25-24, but Tusculum responded with a 9-2 surge capped by a King layup for a 34-27 Pioneer lead with 2:17 left in the half.
Tusculum led 34-31 at halftime after it shot 38.9 percent (14-for-36) from the field in the first half, including 4-for-13 from three-point range. Hodnett finished 5-for-7 from the floor and led all players with 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the opening half, while Donaldson hit a pair of three-pointers and finished with six points.
Lander, which hit 41.9 percent from the floor (13-for-31) in the opening 20 minutes, received nine points from Purdie who was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. Robinson added six points and three rebounds for the Bearcats, who were outrebounded 25-16 by the Pioneers including 11-5 on the offensive glass.
Hodnett came out on fire in the second half for the Pioneers, hitting a layup and then back-to-back three-pointers as Tusculum extended its lead to 42-34 with 18:37 remaining. A putback by Jenkins and a dunk by Hodnett put the Pioneer lead into double figures at 46-36 with 17:16 left, but a 6-0 run from the Bearcats cut the deficit to 46-42 on a putback by Wiggins with 15:12 remaining.
The Tusculum lead would grow to 11 points at 55-44 on a putback by Mitchell with 13:12 left, and Mitchell extended the edge to 57-45 with two foul shots with 11:37 left. Gibson cashed in on a three-point play to give the Pioneers a 61-49 lead with 9:12 to go, and Mitchell continued his work on the offensive glass on a tip-in with 7:06 left as the Pioneers led 63-51.
Lander would battle back, pulling within 63-56 on a pair of foul shots by Wiggins with 5:08 left. However, a fourth chance for the Pioneers on the offensive glass resulted in a King putback and a 65-56 Tusculum advantage with 4:32 remaining. Meanwhile, Lander endured a drought of six minutes without a field goal, which was snapped on a TJ Knight putback with 1:52 left which brought the Bearcats within 68-60.
Tusculum was able to put the game away at the foul line, as Gibson hit two free throws with 53 seconds left and Donaldson added two more with 43 seconds left. The Bearcats missed 17 of their final 19 shot attempts over the final 11 minutes, going 9-for-13 from the foul line over that span.
Knight led the Bearcats with nine rebounds off the bench, while DeShundre Rucker had seven rebounds to go along with seven points and four blocked shots in 17 minutes. Both teams controlled the ball well, turning it over eight times apiece.
Tusculum will continue its season-opening stretch of five straight road games on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Lees-McRae. The Pioneers and Bearcats will meet at Pioneer Arena on Saturday, Nov. 24 in the home opener for Tusculum.