BANNER ELK, N.C. --- Lees-McRae College held Tusculum University scoreless for the final five minutes of a 71-68 victory in non-conference men's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Williams Gymnasium.
Quay Kimble hit five three-pointers and finished with game highs of 17 points and six assists for the Bobcats (1-3), who scored 18 points off 20 Pioneer turnovers in the victory. Wes Morgan hit four three-pointers and added 13 points for Lees-McRae, while Jerick Haynes and Andrew Gardner had 11 points apiece.
Caleb Hodnett and Trenton Gibson each finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for the Pioneers (1-3), who shot just 8-for-21 from the foul line in the game and missed seven of eight attempts in the second half. After a putback by Brandon Mitchell tied the game at 68-68 with 5:04 left, the Pioneers went 0-for-4 from the field, missed all four free-throw attempts and turned the ball over four times.
Lees-McRae was only slightly more productive in the final five minutes, going 1-for-8 from the field and 1-for-3 from the foul line with a pair of turnovers. A basket by Haynes with 4:11 left would eventually be the game-winning hoop, with an insurance foul shot by Morgan with 8.6 seconds left. Tusculum had a final possession following Morgan's free throw, but was unable to get a shot away after inbounding the ball with 1.2 seconds to play.
The Pioneers shot 46.4 percent (26-for-56) from the field in the game and drilled eight three-pointers in 17 attempts to erase a 10-point deficit. Lees-McRae ended the game at 36.8 percent shooting (28-for-76) but sank 12 three-pointers in 33 tries and went just 3-for-6 at the foul line.
Tusculum scored on the opening possession of the game on a three-pointer by Gibson, and led 5-2 after a pair of foul shots by Hodnett. A three-pointer by Hodnett gave the Pioneers an 11-10 lead, followed by a three from Donovan Donaldson for a 13-11 Tusculum advantage after 3 1/2 minutes. A three-minute scoring drought from Tusculum allowed Lees-McRae to run off seven points in a row to take a 19-15 lead, but the Pioneers fought back to tie the game at 24-24 on a layup by King with 9:33 left in the half.
An 8-0 run by the Bobcats gave Lees-McRae its largest lead at 37-27 on a layup by Kerry Richardson with 4:39 left in the first half. Tariq Jenkins would answer for Tusculum with six straight points to cut the deficit to 37-33, and he would add four more points in the latter minutes of the half as Tusculum went to intermission trailing 46-39.
Jenkins led the Pioneers with 10 points in the first half and Gibson added nine as Tusculum shot 58.3 percent (14-for-24) from the field and 4-for-6 from three-point range in the half. Kimble was 4-for-5 from three-point range and led all players with 14 points in the first half for the Bobcats, who made just 18-of-42 shots overall (42.9 percent) but went 9-for-17 from beyond the arc.
Tusculum opened the second half with eight straight points, including a pair of three-pointers by Hodnett and a layup from Donaldson which gave the Pioneers a 47-46 lead with 18:02 remaining. After the Bobcats went back up by four, a Hodnett layup and a three from Dillon Smith put the Pioneers back on top 55-54 with 14:26 left. The teams would be tied at 59 and 61 before Adrian Cohen converted a three-point play for a 64-61 Tusculum lead with 11:01 to play.
The Pioneers would then go scoreless for just over five minutes before Gibson went end-to-end for a layup with 5:51 left to cut Lees-McRae's lead to 68-66. Mitchell then scored on a second chance with 5:04 remaining to tie the score at 68-68, setting up the Pioneers' game-ending drought.
Trailing 70-68 with just over 10 seconds left, Jenkins appeared to give Tusculum a 71-70 lead with a three-pointer but the basket was wiped out for a moving screen. Morgan then hit the first of two free throws with 8.6 seconds to go to give the Bobcats a three-point advantage.
Donaldson had 11 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Pioneers while Jenkins had all 10 of his points in the final minutes of the first half. Off the bench, Mitchell shot 4-for-6 from the field and had eight points along with seven rebounds and two steals, while Smith added five points and six boards for the Pioneers.
Kimble finished the game with a game-high six assists along with three steals for the Bobcats, who were led with five rebounds apiece by Malik Wright and Dylan Gollihar.
Tusculum had a 47-40 rebounding edge over Lees-McRae, while the Bobcats had a slim 32-30 edge in points in the paint. Lees-McRae also had 15 fastbreak points to 12 for Tusculum, and the Bobcats enjoyed a 9-6 edge in second-chance points.
The Pioneers will play the last of five straight road games to start the 2018-19 season on Monday night at 7 p.m. at Lee, before playing their home opener on Saturday, Nov. 24 against Lander at Pioneer Arena.