DAHLONEGA, Ga. --- Freshman Joshua Scott connected on the go-ahead three-pointer and senior Cam King made two critical free throws with 22 seconds left in overtime as the Tusculum men's basketball team defeated host North Georgia Saturday night at the UNG Convocation Center.
The Pioneers (4-2) were led by TU senior Tariq Jenkins who poured in 19 points, while graduate student Caleb Hodnett added 15 markers including 10 points in the second period alone as Tusculum is victorious in its first true road game of the young season. Sophomore guard Trenton Gibson added six points, 10 rebounds and two assists, while Brandon Mitchell had six points and seven boards in the TU victory.
The Nighthawks (4-2) were led in scoring by Bailey Minor's 11 points, while Carrod Watson contributed 10 points. Ephraim Tshimanga added nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals in his 35 minutes of action.
The contest was defensive battle as both teams were held under 40 percent shooting on the night. But Tusculum held its own once again on the glass, out-rebounding the Nighthawks by a 49-33 margin. TU shot well at the free throw line going 13-of-16 for the game including a perfect 4-of-4 in overtime. UNG made only seven of its 14 shots at the free throw stripe, including 2-of-6 in OT.
The Nighthawks shot 35.6 percent from the floor (21-of-59) and 8-of-27 from three-point territory (29.6%). TU was held to 31.7 percent shooting (20-of-63) and went 7-of-31 (22.6%) from behind the arch.
North Georgia closed out the final six minutes of regulation with a 14-4 run and Tshimanga made one of two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to tie the game at 51-51 and send the game into overtime.
The Nighthawks took the lead on Minor's layup a minute into extra time, but Gibson would tie the game at 53-53 with a pair of free throws with 3:47 on the clock. After a missed field goal and a missed free throw on UNG next possession, Gibson canned a jumper in the paint to retake the lead at 55-53 with 3:14 to go. But Watson got free in the lane and made an open layup to even the game at 55-55 with 2:27 on the scoreboard.
Scott buried his first three-pointer of the night as Tusculum led 58-55 with 2:11 remaining. Watson was fouled with 1:54 left and he would miss the first free throw, but canned the second as TU led by 58-56. The Pioneers came up empty on its next possession despite getting off four shots. Tshimanga came down with the rebound with and UNG called timeout with 32 seconds left.
Tshimanga was fouled driving into the paint and went to the charity stripe for two shots with 23.3 second left. He made the first, but missed the second as King came down with the rebound and was immediately fouled. King, who shot 23 percent at the stripe last year and was 0-for-1 so far this year. His first shot hit the front of the rim and bounced in, while his second try hit nothing but net as the Pioneers led 60-57.
Minor got off a three-pointer from the left corner with nine seconds left that clanged off the iron, but Tshimanga came down with the rebound and a second chance. He got the ball to Josh Cottrell who let a 23-footer fly from the right wing, but that was no good and TU's Brandon Mitchell came down with the rebound as time ran out.
Tusculum started the game ice cold from the floor going 2-of-16 to open the fray as North Georgia led 15-6 at the 13:15 mark of the first half. The Pioneers scored seven straight including a three-pointer by Woodstock, Georgia sophomore Adrian Cohen as TU trailed 15-13 with 9:43 left before halftime.
The Nighthawks used a 7-0 spurt of their own including back-to-back treys by Josh Cottrell for a 22-13 UNG lead with 6:31 on the clock.
A three-pointer by Hodnett and buckets from Gibson and Jenkins brought TU back to within a pair at 24-22 with 4:19 left in the period.
Zach Cottrell answered with a triple, but TU scored five straight including a Hodnett dunk to tie the game at 27-27 with 1:29 remaining in the half. UNG scored the final three points including a basket by Watson and Tshimanga made one of two free throws with 0.1 seconds on the clock as UNG led 30-27 at the intermission.
Tusculum opened the second half with a 14-4 run including 10 points by Hodnett alone in a four-minute span as the Pioneers led 41-34 with 13:07 remaining in regulation. TU would lead by as many as 47-38 with 6:35 left before UNG rallied down the stretch to send the game into overtime.
Tusculum, who entered the game as the national leader in offensive rebounding, added to their tally with 19 on the offensive glass, resulting in 13 second chance points. UNG held a 26-22 advantage in points in the paint, and a 12-6 edge in points off turnovers.
The Pioneers will open South Atlantic Conference play on Tuesday when they host Lenoir-Rhyne for a 7:30 p.m. contest at Pioneer Arena.