GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tusculum rallied from a 20-point deficit against 22nd-ranked Wingate, but ended up falling 78-68 to the Bulldogs in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Monday afternoon at Pioneer Arena.
The Bulldogs (22-3, 16-2 SAC) won their 11th straight game and remained one game behind first-place Carson-Newman with two games remaining in the regular season. Marta Miscenko posted game highs of 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead Wingate to the victory and a sweep of the season series from the Pioneers. The game was originally scheduled to be played Feb. 3, but was rescheduled due to illness involving a number of Tusculum players.
Tusculum (16-8, 11-7 SAC) dropped into a three-way tie for third place in the SAC standings with Catawba and Anderson with two games to play. Tusculum visits Anderson on Wednesday night before concluding the regular season Saturday afternoon at Newberry.
The Pioneers were led by Sydney Wilson, who scored 15 of her team-high 18 points in the second half and connected on five three-pointers for the third time in the last five games. Mia Long added 17 points and a game-high six assists, while Yolizma Cupidan chipped in with 16 points and five rebounds. The Pioneers hit 8-for-21 from three-point range in the game, including 6-for-12 in the second half, but went just 6-for-16 from the foul line in the loss.
Joining Miscenko in double figures for Wingate were Caroline Averette with 17 points and six rebounds, Courtney Robinson with 16 points and six rebounds, and Danasia Witherspoon with 12 points and five boards. Wingate had a 33-30 edge in rebounding, but the Pioneers had 16 offensive rebounds which they converted into 22 second-chance points. As a team, the Bulldogs shot 58 percent (29-for-50) from the field and went 19-for-22 from the foul line.
Wingate closed the first quarter with a 23-4 run to build a lead that grew to as large as 20 points midway through the second quarter. Tusculum trailed 41-26 at halftime, and by 19 points early in the third quarter before trimming the margin to six points late in the third quarter. The Pioneers would get as close as 55-54 on a three-pointer by Wilson with 8:08 left, but back-to-back baskets by Miscenko helped keep the Bulldogs in front down the stretch.
Long scored the first six points of the game for the Pioneers, helping Tusculum to an early 6-3 lead. However, Tusculum got into early foul trouble as three post players were each called for two fouls in the first eight minutes. Wingate took advantage by shooting 10-for-13 at the foul line in the opening quarter on top of 8-for-13 shooting from the field. A layup by Cupidan with 3:20 left in the period would be Tusculum's final points of the quarter, as Wingate scored 12 straight to go on top 26-10 at the end of the first.
The Pioneers broke the run on a three-pointer by Wilson to start the second quarter, but Wingate built its lead to 20 points at 39-19 on a layup by Averette with 4:02 left in the quarter. Tusculum struck back with six straight points by Long, and ended the half with a free throw by Cupidan to trail 41-26 at intermission.
Long was the Pioneers' leading scorer in the first half with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field, while Miscenko and Averette shared the lead for the Bulldogs with 11 points each. Wingate shot 56.5 percent (13-for-23) from the field and 14-for-17 from the foul line in the half, while holding the Pioneers to 2-for-9 from beyond the arc and 11-for-30 (36.7 percent) overall. Wingate also took advantage of 12 first-half turnovers by Tusculum, scoring 17 points off the miscues.
Witherspoon opened the third quarter with back-to-back baskets as Wingate led 45-26 with 8:02 to play in the quarter. Tusculum took better care of the ball in the third quarter, committing just one turnover and shooting 9-for-19 from the field as a team including three-pointers from Cupidan, Wilson and Lovely Locklear, the latter bringing the Pioneers within 53-47 in the final minute of the quarter. Tusculum was also boosted by 12 second-chance points off five offensive rebounds.
The Pioneers trailed 55-47 entering the fourth quarter, but scored the first seven points on a free throw by Locklear, a three-point play by Kendrea Duke and a three-pointer by Wilson, the latter bringing the Pioneers within 55-54 with 8:08 to go. However, Miscenko scored the next two buckets for the Bulldogs to push the Wingate lead to 59-54 with 7:13 left. A three-pointer by Wilson made it a 59-57 game with 6:52 to play, but an exchange of baskets left Wingate holding a 65-60 lead with 5:36 remaining and Tusculum would get no closer. The Pioneers went 4-for-9 at the foul line in the final quarter, while Wingate hit all three of its attempts in the period.
Wilson's fifth three-pointer of the game, with 1:19 to play, was the 100th of her career as she became the eighth player in school history to make 100 career three-pointers and the first to reach the milestone since Kendal Baxter made a school single-season record 105 three-pointers as a freshman in the 2009-10 season.
Cupidan reached double figures for the fifth time in the last seven games by shooting 7-for-11 from the field for the Pioneers. Martoria Patton played 21 minutes and did not attempt a shot, but had four rebounds and three steals. Off the bench, Duke was plagued by foul trouble and finished with five points and three rebounds in 15 minutes, while Maddie Sutton had four of her five rebounds on the offensive glass and also had three assists.
Kasey Johnson, who entered the game as the Pioneers' second-leading scorer at 12.9 points per game, picked up three fouls in the first half and finished with a season-low four points in 20 minutes, but added four rebounds and three assists. Locklear made all three of her field-goal attempts and finished with eight points in nine minutes off the Pioneer bench.
The only Wingate starter that failed to reach double figures was Taylor Helms, who shot 2-for-7 from the field and had six points to go along with a team-high five assists. Wingate shot just 1-for-6 from three-point range in the win, with the only make coming from Averette early in the second quarter.
Each team turned the ball over 16 times in the game, with Wingate scoring 19 points off the Tusculum turnovers and the Pioneers scoring 12 points off the Bulldog miscues. Wingate had a 44-32 edge in points in the paint, while the Pioneers enjoyed a 22-11 advantage in second-chance points and a 13-8 lead in fast-break points in the game.
Tusculum will play at Anderson on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in a crucial SAC matchup. Both teams are tied for third place in the standings at 11-7, with the Pioneers having defeated the Trojans 74-51 at home on Jan. 17.