GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University men's basketball team begins a three-game road swing as the Pioneers travel to Newberry College on Saturday in TU's lone action of the week. Tip-off time is schedule for 4 p.m. following the TU/Newberry women's game from Eleazer Arena on the Newberry, South Carolina campus.
The Pioneers (5-3, 1-1 South Atlantic Conference) will play four of its five games in the month of December away from Pioneer Arena. TU recorded five wins in the first month of the season, its most victories in November since going 5-3 to open the 1990-1991 campaign.
Saturday's game at Newberry will be TU's sixth game away from Pioneer Arena but will only be its second true road test of the young season.
RECAPPING LAST WEEK
Sophomore Trenton Gibson scored a team-high 19 points as the Pioneers led wire-to-wire in a 70-58 home win over Lenoir-Rhyne University last Tuesday in the league lid-lifter for both teams. Senior Tariq Jenkins added 15 points while senior teammate Dillon Smith accounted for 13 markers, five rebounds and a career-best five steals in the victory.
In Saturday's 75-71 home loss to Catawba College the Pioneers erased a 12-point deficit in the final five minutes, but a pair of costly turnovers in the final 35 seconds resulted in back-to-back buckets for the Catawba Indians. Gibson led TU again in scoring with 17 points, while freshman Joshua Scott tallied a season-best 14 points going 6-of-8 from the floor and 2-of-4 from three-point land including his game-tying trey with 1:18 remaining.
Newberry (5-2 1-1 SAC) opened conference play with an impressive 91-84 double overtime win at Catawba last Tuesday before falling 80-70 in Saturday's road clash at Mars Hill University. The Wolves got back on the winning track with a 76-61 non-conference victory over Piedmont International to complete the season-sweep over the Bruins.
Head coach Jason Taylor is in his first season at Newberry, but is no stranger to the South Atlantic Conference, spending nine seasons at the helm at Anderson University (2006-2015) where he guided the Trojans to a 157-113 record including 88-37 as a SAC member.
Newberry's road loss on Saturday at Mars Hill snapped a three-game winning streak for the Wolves who have accounted for wins over Piedmont International (twice), Warren Wilson, Catawba and Francis Marion. Newberry's losses have been against UNC Pembroke and Mars Hill.
Junior guard Angelo Sales, Jr. is leading Newberry in both scoring and rebounding. His 10.5 rebounds per game average is tops in the league and 16th-best in the nation, while his 16.8 points per game is 12th in the SAC.
The Wolves have five players scoring in double figures including Sales, TJ Brown (14.8 ppg), Marshall Lange (11.3 ppg), Quandaveon McCollum (10.5 ppg) and Luke Gibson (10.0 ppg).
Saturday will be the 43rd meeting between Tusculum and Newberry in a series which began in 1978. Newberry holds a 22-21 edge in the all-time series but Tusculum has won three of the last four meetings including a sweep of last year's series. The two meetings last year both went into overtime, including a 96-91 double overtime win at Eleazer Arena, snapping a seven-year losing skid for TU dating back to 2011.
Gibson and Jenkins lead the Pioneers in scoring averaging 14.9 points per game apiece which is tied for 20th in the league. Gibson leads TU in assists (4.1 apg – 7th in SAC), steals (1.8 spg – T9th in SAC) and free throw percentage (.800 – 20th in SAC). He is second on the team in rebounds per game (7.3 rpg – 10th in SAC) including 3.4 offensive boards per contest (T4th in SAC / 42nd in NCAA II).
Caleb Hodnett, a graduate student forward, is third on the roster with 10 points per game and his 7.1 rebounds per contest are 11th in the league.
Junior forward Brandon Mitchell leads Tusculum in rebounding (8.3 rpg – 3rd in SAC), blocked shots (1.75 bpg – 2nd in SAC / 39th in NCAA II) and field goal percentage (.508 – 19th in SAC). Mitchell's 4.75 offensive rebounds per game are tops in the conference and sixth in the country.
Tusculum continues to lead the nation in team offensive rebounds per game, hauling down 21.5 per contest. TU's +15.4 rebounding margin is the best in the conference and second in the country. The Pioneers also lead the SAC in total rebounds per game (46.6 rpg – 3rd in NCAA II) and blocked shots per game (4.6 bpg – 23rd in NCAA II).
FOLLOW THE GAME
Brian Stayton will describe all the action of Tusculum basketball 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. Live video, Tusculum audio and live stats links are available at www.TusculumPioneers.com.