GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tusculum rallied from a 10-point second half deficit and closed out the game with 13-3 run in the final 3:40 as the Pioneers defeated league-newcomer UVa-Wise 86-84 Wednesday night in South Atlantic Conference men's basketball action from Pioneer Arena.
The Pioneers (8-4, 3-1 SAC) trailed 81-73 with 4:40 remaining as senior Tariq Jenkins scored eight of his career-high 25 points in the final 2:20.
The Cavaliers' Briggs Parris led all scorers with 36 points as he shot a sizzling 11-of-13 from the floor including 8-of-10 on three-pointers and 6-of-7 at the free throw stripe.
Tusculum senior center Cameron King also had a career night with his 13 points off the bench, while also grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. King went 3-of-4 from the floor and a career-best 7-of-7 from the free throw line. TU's Brandon Dickson added 11 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots, while Caleb Hodnett tallied nine markers including a key triple during the Tusculum run.
The Cavs (4-6, 1-4 SAC) took their largest lead of the game at 75-65 with 7:28 remaining following two free throws from Cameron Whiteside. TU senior Dillon Smith drained a three-pointer, but UVa-Wise got a basket from Chance Sheffey to lead 77-68 with 5:53 on the clock.
Tusculum's Trenton Gibson followed with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to six (78-72). Whiteside made one of two free throws to push the lead back to seven, but Jenkins followed with two made free throws to make the score 78-73 with five minutes to go, the closest it had been since trailing 60-56 with 12 minutes left.
Parris drained a three-pointer on the next possession at the 4:40 mark, but that would UVa-Wise's final points for a while.
King sparked an 11-0 run with his slam dunk with 3:40 left. Tusculum pressed and Hodnett came up with the steal and later drilled a three-pointer from the corner as TU trailed 81-78. After a Wise timeout, Tusculum forced another turnover. Jenkins would can a jumper in the paint to trim the deficit to 81-80 with 2:21 to go.
Wise came up empty on its next possession as Mitchell blocked the shot and Hodnett came down with the rebound. TU got the ball to Jenkins who drove in the paint for the go-ahead layup as the Pioneers led 82-81, its first lead since going up 42-39 early in the second half.
The Cavs missed a field goal as the ball went out of bounds to Tusculum. But the Pioneers turned the ball over on an offensive foul by Hodnett with 1:06 left in the game. UVa-Wise missed its third straight shot as TU came down with the board and Jenkins made a layup with 33.2 seconds left to lead 84-81.
The Cavs called a timeout with 25.4 second left and got off a three-point attempt but it was off the mark and Mitchell came down with the rebound and was fouled with 9.8 seconds left. Mitchell would make one of the two free throws as the Pioneers led 85-81. Parris came down the floor and banked in a three-pointer from the top of the key with three seconds left as Wise called a timeout trailing 85-84.
Mitchell was fouled on the in-bounds with 2.2 seconds left. He made the first free throw, but missed the second. Wise never got a shot off as Mitchell came away with the game-ending steal for the Tusculum victory.
This was the first regular season meeting between the Pioneers and Cavaliers since 2003. It also marked the first time the two programs have met in a conference game since Feb. 20, 1996 when the two were members of the Tennessee-Virginia Athletic Conference.
Wise finished the game shooting 53.7 percent from the field going 29-of-54 including 11-of-19 from three-point land (57.9%). The Cavaliers recorded 20 assists on its 29 made field goals, while Tusculum shot 43.5 percent, but made 15 of their 25 shots in the second half (60%).
TU edged the Cavs 36-32 on the boards including 17-8 on the offensive glass. TU also held an edge in points in the paint (36-30), points off turnovers (27-20) and second chance points (19-12). The Pioneers also held an advantage in bench points, outscoring the Cavaliers by a 33-7 margin.
Sheffey added 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for UVa-Wise. Gibson tallied nine points, six boards and five assists for the Pioneers.
Tusculum has overcome a double-digit deficit twice this season and six times over the last two years under TU head coach J.T. Burton.
Tusculum has won five of its last seven games and will wrap up its pre-holiday schedule on Saturday as they travel to Charlotte to take on the 20th-ranked Queens Royals for a 4 p.m. contest at the Levine Center.