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Pioneers hold on late for 65-61 win at Newberry

Tariq Jenkins scored 16 of his team-high 20 points in the second half of the Pioneers' win at Newberry
Tariq Jenkins scored 16 of his team-high 20 points in the second half of the Pioneers' win at Newberry

NEWBERRY, S.C. --- Tariq Jenkins scored 16 of his team-high 20 points in the second half as Tusculum University held on for a 65-61 win over Newberry College in South Atlantic Conference men's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Eleazer Arena.

Freshman Joshua Scott matched his season high with 14 points and fellow rookie Justin Mitchell added 10 for the Pioneers (6-3, 2-1 SAC), who led by 12 points midway through the second half but had to survive a potential game-tying shot from the Wolves (5-3, 1-2 SAC) in the closing seconds for their third straight victory over Newberry. Tusculum shot just 5-for-24 from three-point range and 40 percent overall (22-for-55) from the field, but the nation's top offensive rebounding team pulled 16 boards on the offensive glass and outrebounded Newberry 39-23 in the game.

Angelo Sales Jr. scored 22 of his game-high 23 points in the second half for the Wolves, but misfired on the potential game-tying basket with 6.5 seconds left. Tusculum's Trenton Gibson then iced the win with two free throws with 3.9 seconds to go, giving the Pioneers back-to-back road wins over the Wolves for the first time since winning three in a row in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. Gibson finished with eight points and four assists for the Pioneers, while Brandon Mitchell had a game-high nine rebounds for Tusculum.

T.J. Brown joined Sales in double figures for Newberry with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including three from three-point territory. Overall, Newberry outshot Tusculum by connecting on 47.6 percent (20-for-42) from the floor and 8-for-19 from beyond the arc. The Wolves went 13-for-23 (56.5 percent) from the foul line and had just three second-chance points compared to 11 for the Pioneers.

Jenkins hit 7-for-12 from the floor and 6-for-9 from the foul line to reach the 20-point mark for the third time this season. He has scored in double figures eight times in nine games this year and boosted his season scoring average to a team-high 15.4 points per game. Scott, who delivered 14 points in 22 minutes off the bench in last Saturday's 75-71 loss to Catawba, made his first career start against Newberry and was 5-for-7 from the field (2-for-4 on threes) and 2-for-2 at the foul line for his third double-digit scoring output of the season. Justin Mitchell, who also made his first career start on Saturday and played a career-high 29 minutes, was 4-for-10 from the field and added four rebounds and two steals for his second straight 10-point performance.

Two baskets by Justin Mitchell were the only scoring for either team over the first three minutes, and two foul shots from Gibson extended the Tusculum lead to 6-0 with 16:50 left in the first half. A three-pointer by Brown with 15:50 to go in the opening half got the Wolves on the scoreboard, and Newberry would go on top 13-12 on a three-point play by Brown with 10:44 left in the first half. A three-pointer by Tusculum's Caleb Hodnett would spark a 7-0 run for the Pioneers, but consecutive three-pointers from the Wolves' Marcus Ford put Newberry back ahead 22-21 with 6:26 to play in the half. A basket by Justin Mitchell snapped a drought of close to four minutes by the Pioneers, and Scott closed the half with five points on a putback and a three-pointer as Tusculum led 30-27 at intermission.

Scott led the Pioneers with eight points and three rebounds in the first half, as Tusculum shot 12-for-28 (42.9 percent) from the field and 3-for-13 from long range. Justin Mitchell and Hodnett had six points apiece for the Pioneers, with four from both Jenkins and Gibson. For Newberry, Brown was the top scorer in the opening half with a game-high nine points and Ford added eight in 14 minutes off the bench. Newberry was 8-for-17 (47.1 percent) from the field and hit five three-pointers in 10 attempts, but went 6-for-11 from the foul line and allowed Tusculum to grab seven offensive rebounds.

A three-point play from Scott and two foul shots by Brandon Mitchell extended the Tusculum lead to 35-27 early in the second half. Justin Mitchell sank a three-pointer and Gibson followed with a bucket as the Pioneers opened up a 40-31 lead with just under 17 minutes remaining. A three-point play by Jenkins gave Tusculum its first double-digit lead of the day at 45-35 with 13:37 to go, and another three-point play from Jenkins left the Pioneers holding their largest lead of the game at 52-40 with 10:49 left. Tusculum would then go four minutes without a basket, but the third three-point play of the half from Jenkins gave the Pioneers a 57-50 lead with 6:47 remaining. The Pioneers then went into another field-goal drought of more than three minutes as Newberry pulled within 59-56 on two foul shots from Sales with 3:40 left, but Scott drained a three on the Pioneers' next trip to double the lead to six at 62-56.

A dunk by Sales pulled the Wolves back within 62-58 with 2:50 left, and an exchange of foul shots by Justin Mitchell and Sales left the Pioneers with a four-point lead with 2:35 on the clock. After each team came up empty on multiple possessions, it was Sales who brought Newberry within two at 63-61 with 17.8 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws. Tusculum then turned the ball over in the backcourt with 12.3 seconds left to give Newberry a chance to tie or take the lead, but Sales missed badly on a hesitation baseline leaner with under seven seconds remaining, and Gibson clinched the victory for Tusculum as he sank a pair from the stripe with 3.9 seconds left.

Sales was 0-for-1 from the field and 1-for-2 from the foul line in 14 minutes during the first half, but lived up to his scoring average of 16.8 points per game by hitting 7-for-9 from the field, including a three-pointer, and 7-for-9 from the foul line to account for 22 of the Wolves' 34 points in the half. Brandon Mitchell had eight of his nine rebounds in the second half for the Pioneers, who shot 37 percent (10-for-27) after intermission but went 13-for-18 at the foul line.

Both teams were stingy with the basketball, with Tusculum turning it over 11 times and Newberry 10. The Pioneers outscored the Wolves off turnovers by a 14-10 margin, and had a commanding 34-18 edge in points in the paint. Newberry's bench outscored Tusculum's 16-11, with Ford leading the Wolves with 11 points and Hodnett scoring eight for the Pioneers to go along with eight rebounds in 18 minutes of action.

Tusculum will continue its stretch of three consecutive road games on Thursday, Dec. 12 when the Pioneers visit Lees-McRae for a 7 p.m. start. The Bobcats (7-2) are averaging 93.4 points per game and have scored 100 or more points three times, including a 112-73 non-conference win over Piedmont International on Saturday. The Bobcats beat the Pioneers 85-80 in a neutral-site game in Charlotte on Nov. 17.

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