GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum Pioneers will play its first true road game of the 2019-20 campaign as Coach JT Burton's squad heads to Dahlonega, Georgia to face off against the North Georgia Nighthawks at the UNG Convocation Center. Tip-off time is 6 p.m. (ET).
The Pioneers are coming off a pair of tough losses last weekend in Charlotte, falling to Southeast Region foes UNC Pembroke and Lees-McRae. In Sunday's loss to Lees-McRae, the Black & Orange fell behind 16-4 to start the game and a late TU rally came up short as the Bobcats prevailed, 85-80.
Brandon Mitchell was the star of the game for the Pioneers on Sunday, logging his second double-double of the year with 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, including 10 boards on the offensive glass. TU graduate student Caleb Hodnett accounted for 16 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore Trenton Gibson finish with 13 points, seven boards and a game-high five assists.
The Nighthawks (4-1) rebounded from its first loss of the season last weekend with a 69-63 road win at Morehouse College on Wednesday night. UNG limited the Tigers to 33 percent shooting while getting 13 points and nine rebounds from Carrod Watson.
Saturday night's contest will be the fifth Peach Belt Conference opponent the Pioneers have faced in the opening three weeks of the season. TU is 3-1 against Peach Belt foes with wins over USC Aiken, Clayton State and Young Harris, while its lone setback was Saturday's 81-79 loss to now nationally-ranked UNC Pembroke.
This will be the second recorded meeting between Tusculum and North Georgia. TU leads the series 1-0 following a 61-56 win over UNG on Nov. 27, 2009 at Holt Fieldhouse in Jefferson City, Tenn. as part of the Dick Campbell Memorial Classic. All-American guard Kyle Moore scored 19 points, while Josh Bennett and Jimmy Boone contributed 13 markers each for the 19th-ranked Pioneers.
Gibson leads the Pioneers in scoring (15.4 ppg – 19th in SAC) and is the South Atlantic Conference leader in assists, dishing out 5.6 helpers per contest which is listed 42nd in the country. The 2019 SAC Freshman of the Year has scored in double-figures in 10 consecutive games including a career-best 24 markers he posted in last Wednesday's home opener against Young Harris.
Senior guard Tariq Jenkins is second on the roster in scoring average (14.6 ppg – 23rd in SAC), but was held to five points and three rebounds in Sunday's loss to Lees-McRae. Jenkins (Riverdale, Ga.) is one of two Georgia natives on the TU roster, along with sophomore guard Adrian Cohen (Woodstock, Ga.).
Mitchell has emerged as the top-rebounder in the conference and is the national leader on the offensive boards. The junior forward is pulling down 10.4 boards per contest, including a NCAA Division II leading 6.6 on the offensive glass. His 13.8 points per game average is third-best on the team and is listed 26th in the conference.
Mitchell continues to be the top shot blocker in the league, averaging 2.4 rejections per game (17th in NCAA II). In this year's season-opener, he posted a career-high six blocked shots (4th in TU history).
Hodnett rounds out the double-figure scoring for Tusculum, averaging 11.4 points per game and is second on the roster averaging 7.4 rebounds per outing (8th in SAC).
As a team, Tusculum leads the SAC in rebound margin (+15.8 – 5th in NCAA II) and leads the nation in team offensive rebounds per game (22.60 rpg). TU's 4.6 blocked shots per game average is best in the league and 32nd in the country.
FOLLOW THE GAME
The "Voice of the Pioneers" Brian Stayton will describe all the action from Dahlonega on the Pioneer Sports Network. Fans can listen to the game locally on WSMG Radio at 95.5 FM and 1450 AM, and on-line at www.TusculumPioneers.com. The Pioneer Pre-Game show begins at 5:45 p.m. (ET). The University of North Georgia will also provide video and live stats. Those links are available on the Tusculum Men's Basketball Schedule page on the TU athletic web site.
NEXT FOR THE PIONEERS
Tusculum opens its 21st South Atlantic Conference season on Tuesday night when the Pioneers host Lenoir-Rhyne at 7:30 p.m. (ET) from Pioneer Arena. It will be a rematch of last year's SAC Quarterfinal match-up which the Bears came away with a 70-58 win. L-R would advance to the SAC Championship game and would earn an at-large bid to the NCAA II Tournament.