GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Anderson University opened the second half with a 13-0 run and held off a fourth-quarter rally from Tusculum University as the Trojans defeated the Pioneers 55-46 Wednesday night in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action at Pioneer Arena.
Alexy Mollenhauer scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Trojans (18-2, 12-0 SAC), who won their 16th consecutive game by holding the shorthanded Pioneers (13-6, 6-6 SAC) to 30.5 percent shooting (18-for-59) from the field including 6-for-25 from three-point range.
Yolizma Cupidan led Tusculum with a season-high 16 points as the Pioneers played without starting guards Mia Long (13.8 ppg) and Callie Patterson (11.3 ppg). Jasmine Williams had 11 points and four rebounds in her first start of the season, and Mya Belton matched her season high with 10 points to go along with four rebounds in 17 minutes off the Tusculum bench.
Madison Baggett grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for the Trojans, who finished with a 47-29 edge on the boards over the Pioneers. Ace Easter added seven rebounds, but the reigning National Player of the Week was limited to just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field. Mollenhauer, the leading scorer in the SAC at 19.4 points per game, shot just 5-for-18 from the field and 1-for-7 from three-point range in the game.
Tusculum had an early 5-2 lead, but Anderson came back to tie the score at 5-5 on a three-pointer by Cassie Ketchum with 5:20 left in the first quarter. Tusculum trailed by a point at 10-9 following two layups from Kendrea Duke, but baskets by Mollenhauer and Erika Martin gave the Trojans a 16-11 lead after one quarter.
The Anderson lead would stretch to 23-13 following a steal and layup by Alexis Tate with 6:53 left in the first half, but that would be the final points of the period for the Trojans. Tusculum ran off the final 12 points of the second quarter, tying the game on a three-pointer by Williams with 3:25 left and going on top 25-23 on two free throws by Cupidan with 2:38 left. Anderson finished the quarter by turning the ball over eight times in the final six minutes and missing four shots,
Williams led the Pioneers with eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, in the first half while Cupidan and Duke had six points apiece. Mollenhauer paced the Trojans with seven points and five rebounds, Baggett had four points and seven boards and Ketchum scored six points for Anderson, which shot 10-for-27 (37 percent) from the field and turned the ball over 11 times in the opening half. Tusculum was 33.3 percent (9-for-27) from the field and scored 11 points off Anderson's 11 turnovers.
The third quarter saw the Pioneers go nearly eight minutes without a point, as a layup by Cupidan broke a drought of 12 missed shots to begin the half. Meanwhile, Mollenhauer had five points during the surge and Easter and Ketchum hit three-pointers to help Anderson to a 36-25 lead with 3:32 left in the quarter. Anderson carried a 42-31 lead into the final quarter as Tusculum was 3-for-17 from the floor in the third period and missed all six of its three-point attempts.
A three-pointer by Ketchum on the opening possession of the fourth quarter gave Anderson its largest lead at 45-31, and the lead remained at 13 with just under eight minutes to go. Two baskets by Cupidan and two from Belton, the second a three-pointer, cut the Trojan lead to 47-43 with 6:28 left. After the Pioneers missed a shot to pull within two, the Trojans' Taylor Hair hit back-to-back shots as part of an 8-0 run that allowed Anderson to pull away in the closing minutes. A three-pointer by Williams with under 10 seconds left broke a six-minute drought and set the final score.
Williams' 11 points were one shy of her career high of 12 set at Lenoir-Rhyne on January 5, while Belton equaled her season and career best of 10 points established on January 2 against Bluefield State. Duke finished with six points and a team-high eight rebounds, and Marta Rodrigues was scoreless in a career-high 40 minutes while contributing five rebounds and three steals.
Ketchum joined Mollenhauer in double figures for Anderson with 12 points, coming on four three-pointers in eight attempts. Off the bench, Hair had six points in 17 minutes and Martin added two points and four rebounds in seven minutes of action.
Anderson finished the game with 19 turnovers and shot 38 percent (19-for-50) from the field and 7-for-22 on three-pointers. The Trojans went 10-for-16 at the free-throw line and Tusculum was 4-for-6 at the stripe in the game. The Pioneers turned the ball over just 12 times and matched Anderson with five second-chance points.
Tusculum will return to the road on Saturday with a 2 p.m. tipoff at Newberry. The Pioneers defeated the Wolves 75-54 at home on January 21 in a game that had been rescheduled from December due to snow.