HICKORY, N.C. --- Jasmine Williams hit four of Tusculum University's season-high 12 three-pointers as the Pioneers defeated Lenoir-Rhyne University 66-45 in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Shuford Memorial Gymnasium.
Williams finished with a career-high 12 points for the Pioneers (9-2, 2-2 SAC), who won their fifth consecutive game and led from start to finish for the third game in a row. Yolizma Cupidan led Tusculum with a season-high 16 points and Kendrea Duke added 12 points and a team-best nine rebounds for the Pioneers, who held the Bears to 33.3 percent shooting (19-for-57) in the game.
Madi Suddreth came off the bench for Lenoir-Rhyne (7-6, 2-3 SAC) to lead all players with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Karlie Bearden added eight points for the Bears, who had no other players score more than three points in the game.
Williams entered the game with four three-pointers in 44 career games, but hit three of her four three-pointers in the third quarter to help the Pioneers expand on an 11-point halftime lead. The 12 threes for the Pioneers marked the third time in the last five games that Tusculum has reached double figures in three-pointers made.
Cupidan scored five early points as the Pioneers jumped to a 9-2 lead after three minutes, but a three-minute scoring drought allowed the Bears to pull within 9-7. Cupidan hit her second three of the first quarter to push the Tusculum lead to 12-7 with 3:51 left in the quarter, and added another field goal during a 9-0 run which helped the Pioneers to a 21-11 lead after one period.
The first three-pointer of the game by Williams kicked off the second quarter and helped the Pioneers push their lead to 26-11 before a jumper by Bearden snapped nearly a four-minute scoring drought by the Bears. Duke would account for the final eight points of the quarter for Tusculum as the Pioneers took a 32-21 lead into halftime.
Cupidan led Tusculum with 10 points in the first half as Tusculum connected on 12-for-30 (40 percent) from the field but went 5-for-13 from three-point range. Duke had eight points and five rebounds in the opening half for the Pioneers and Lovely Locklear scored five points. The Bears went 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) from the field in the half and missed all of their three-point attempts. Suddreth led the Bears with 11 points and Bearden added eight in the half.
The Bears cut the deficit to 38-30 on a layup by Madeline Hardy with 5:26 left in the third quarter, but a three-pointer by Callie Patterson and back-to-back threes by Williams were part of a 10-0 run that extended the Tusculum lead to 48-30 with 2:52 left in the third quarter. Williams' third straight three pushed the Pioneers ahead 51-32 with 2:23 to go in the period, and Tusculum carried a 52-35 advantage into the final quarter.
Tusculum was able to build its lead to 20 points early in the fourth quarter on a three-pointer by Patterson, and back-to-back three-pointers by Jalia Arnwine and Mya Belton gave Tusculum its largest lead at 66-40 with 1:53 to go. The Pioneers were 7-for-15 from three-point range in the second half compared to 5-for-14 on two-point shots.
Cupidan played 38 minutes for the Pioneers and shot 6-for-10 from the field and had seven rebounds and three assists. Duke's 12 points came in 23 minutes of playing time as she battled foul trouble in the second half. Mia Long finished with just four points, but had four rebounds, a season-high seven assists and five steals for the Pioneers. Patterson finished with eight points and Arnwine added six, with both connecting on a pair of three-pointers.
Suddreth came off the bench to play 29 minutes for the Bears, shooting 8-for-10 from the field and making all three of her free-throw attempts. However, the rest of the team combined to shoot 11-for-47 (23.4 percent) on field goals and 3-for-7 at the foul line. Lenoir-Rhyne also turned the ball over 19 times, which Tusculum converted into 11 points, while the Bears outrebounded the Pioneers 40-38.
Tusculum will return home to host Mars Hill on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Pioneer Arena to start a stretch of three consecutive home games against SAC opponents.