ANDERSON, S.C. --- Anderson University scored 15 straight points midway through the third quarter to erase a deficit, and went on to beat Tusculum University 67-54 in the South Atlantic Conference women's basketball opener for both teams Wednesday night at the Abney Athletic Center.
Alexy Mollenhauer finished with game highs of 21 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Amari Grevious added 14 rebounds for the Trojans (4-2, 1-0 SAC), who outrebounded the Pioneers 57-41 and held Tusculum to 29.7 percent (22-for-74) shooting from the field in the game, including 4-for-25 from three-point range.
Mia Long paced the Pioneers (4-1, 0-1 SAC) with team highs of 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals, but Tusculum shot just 9-for-38 (23.7 percent) in the second half as a six-point lead was erased in a span of 3 minutes, 40 seconds in the third quarter. Yolizma Cupidan added 10 points and Jalia Arnwine scored nine for Tusculum, which had climbed to fourth in the D2SIDA Southeast Region rankings after opening the season with four consecutive wins.
Anderson shot just 36.9 percent (24-for-65) from the field and hit only five of its 22 three-point attempts, and turned the ball over 20 times which led to 22 points for the Pioneers. However, the Trojans grabbed 16 offensive rebounds which they turned into 15 second-chance points. Erika Martin also reached double figures for Anderson with 13 points along with nine rebounds, and Ace Easter scored 12 points for the Trojans.
The Trojans scored the first seven points of the game, including five from Mollenhauer, while the Pioneers missed their first five shots from the field. A pair of free throws by Cupidan put the Pioneers on the scoreboard with 6:44 to go in the first quarter, but the Trojans built their lead back to 12-4 on two foul shots by Easter with 4:50 remaining in the quarter. Tusculum cut the margin to 16-13 on a layup by Lovely Locklear with a minute left in the period, but back-to-back baskets from Martin gave the Trojans a 20-13 lead heading to the second quarter.
The Anderson lead was still seven points at 23-16 after a three-point play by Martin with 8:57 left in the first half, but buckets from Long and Cupidan drew Tusculum back within 23-20 with 6:41 remaining. Mollenhauer connected on a basket on the next possession of Anderson to restore a 25-20 lead, but the Trojans would go 1-for-8 from the floor the rest of the half.
Callie Patterson hit a three-pointer to pull Tusculum within 29-27 with 2:43 to play, and a Locklear layup off a Long steal tied the game at 29-29 with 2:22 left. Madison Baggett sank a pair of free throws to put Anderson back on top 31-29 with 42 seconds left in the half, but Kendrea Duke converted a three-point play with less than two seconds remaining as the Pioneers took their only lead of the half at 32-31 heading to intermission.
Tusculum shot 36.1 percent (13-for-36) from the field in the first half, while Anderson hit 10-for-32 (31.3 percent) as a team. The Trojans had a 27-22 edge in rebounding in the first half, but had 11 turnovers to eight for the Pioneers. Cupidan led the Pioneers with 10 points in the first half, while Long had seven points and a team-best five rebounds. Mollenhauer paced the Trojans with 10 points and seven rebounds in the opening half.
A three-pointer by Patterson and a layup by Long gave the Pioneers their largest lead at 37-31 with 8:54 left in the third quarter, but the Trojans would make five of their next six shots from the field while Tusculum would misfire on six straight attempts from the field. Mollenhauer scored seven points during the run, which was capped by a three-pointer from Cassie Ketchum which gave Anderson a 46-37 lead with 5:14 to go in the third quarter.
A three-pointer from the Pioneers' Maddie Sutton broke the drought and brought the Pioneers back within 46-40 with 4:53 left in the quarter, but Tusculum would miss five of its final six shots in the period as Anderson carried a 56-44 lead into the final quarter. In all, the Pioneers would go 5 1/2 minutes without a point until a steal and layup from Arnwine with 6:05 remaining. Anderson would score just two points in the final seven minutes of the game, but Tusculum was only able to whittle a 21-point deficit down to 13 at the final buzzer.
Patterson finished with eight points in 22 minutes for the Pioneers, while Duke had four points and seven rebounds despite being held to 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Locklear was 3-for-3 from the field and finished with six points off the bench for the Pioneers. For Anderson, Alexis Tate had seven points and six rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench, and Baggett finished with a game-high five assists to go along with four points and three rebounds.
Tusculum will return to the road on Saturday, Dec. 1 with a SAC game at Catawba. Tip-off will be at 2 p.m.