GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- A 10-0 run by Anderson University in the final minute was capped by a three-point play from Shawn Benard with 8.3 seconds left as the Trojans rallied to stun Tusculum University 68-66 in South Atlantic Conference men's basketball action at Pioneer Arena Wednesday night.
Benard, who finished with 12 points and 10 assists, scored on a drive and converted the foul shot to give Anderson (12-8, 6-6 SAC) its first lead since the opening moments of the second half. Tusculum (9-11, 5-7 SAC) had a final chance to tie, but a missed free throw and a turnover allowed Anderson to run out the clock and escape with the victory.
Kevin Simpson led Anderson with 17 points on 4-for-5 shooting from three-point range off the bench, while Andrew Boynton added 16 points on 6-for-9 from the field. Gage Ellis, the second-leading scorer in the SAC at 19.7 points per game, was kept out of double figures for the first time this season as he mustered just six points but grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for the Trojans.
Trenton Gibson led the Pioneers with 17 points and seven rebounds, Tariq Jenkins added 16 points and Caleb Hodnett had 15 points and six rebounds off the bench. Brandon Mitchell was the fourth Pioneer to reach double figures as he had 12 points, a team-high eight rebounds and three blocked shots in just 22 minutes of action.
The Trojans trailed 66-58 with just over a minute to go when Simpson hit a three-pointer with 59.9 seconds remaining to pull Anderson within five. After a missed free throw from Tusculum, Benard hit two foul shots with 49.8 seconds to go to trim the Tusculum lead to 66-63. The Pioneers then missed two more free throws, and Boynton sank two more at the stripe for the Trojans with 38.7 seconds to play to bring Anderson within 66-65.
A held ball with 15.9 seconds to play turned the ball back over to Anderson, and Benard drove to the hoop and laid a shot high off the glass and in while being fouled. His foul shot gave the Trojans a 68-66 lead, but Tusculum's Jenkins was fouled hard on a drive to the bucket with 2.2 seconds to go. Jenkins missed the first free throw and a lane violation on the second attempt gave the ball back to the Trojans, who ran out the clock on the inbounds pass for their 16th win in 20 all-time meetings with the Pioneers and fourth in a row.
Tusculum opened the game with a 9-2 run as Anderson missed its first five shots from the field. The Pioneer lead reached 15-7 on a layup by Gibson with 11:44 left in the first half, but a three-pointer from Simpson cut the Tusculum lead to 15-14 with 9:43 to go in the half. Back-to-back threes from Simpson and Boynton gave the Trojans their first lead of the game at 24-23 with 5:36 left in the half, part of an 8-0 run. Anderson would lead by as many as five points before taking a 32-28 lead into intermission.
Boynton and Simpson shared the team lead with 10 points apiece in the first half for Anderson, while Ellis was scoreless on four shot attempts but had a game-high six rebounds. The Trojans shot 40.7 percent (11-for-27) from the field in the half and hit four three-pointers in 10 attempts. For Tusculum, Mitchell had nine points and five rebounds and Jenkins added eight in the first half. The Pioneers shot 36.7 percent (11-for-30) from the field and had a 22-15 rebounding edge over the Trojans in the half.
The teams swapped the lead several times in the opening minutes of the second half, with the Pioneers going up 42-39 on a three-pointer by Hodnett with 15:31 to go. Two foul shots by Jenkins with 12:03 left made it a 47-41 Tusculum lead, and the Pioneers had an answer each time the Trojans made it a one-possession game. Gibson scored six straight points for Tusculum as the Pioneers went ahead 63-58 with 2:58 left, then canned two more from the line with 1:11 remaining as Tusculum appeared in control with a 66-58 lead.
Tusculum finished the game 17-for-29 (58.6 percent) at the foul line, including 12-for-23 in the second half. Anderson was 15-for-22 at the line (68.2 percent) but went 5-for-5 in the final minute as a team. The Pioneers outrebounded the Trojans 42-33, including 14 offensive boards, but Anderson had 18 points off 17 Tusculum turnovers compared to just eight points for the Pioneers off 14 Trojan miscues.
The Pioneers, who have lost three in a row, will look to regroup heading into Saturday's visit to Newberry to face the Wolves. Tusculum and Newberry met on January 21 at Pioneer Arena in a game rescheduled from December due to snow, and the Pioneers rallied for a 91-81 overtime victory.