JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. --- Tripp Davis scored a game-high 24 points and Carson-Newman University shot nearly 52 percent from the field in a 72-68 win over Tusculum University in South Atlantic Conference men's basketball action at Holt Fieldhouse Wednesday night.
Davis shot 9-for-16 from the field and scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half for the Eagles (6-9, 3-6 SAC), who nearly let a 17-point second-half lead evaporate before holding on to sent the Pioneers (10-7, 5-4 SAC) to their third consecutive loss, all on the road.
Four players reached double figures for Tusculum, which shot 39.4 percent (28-for-71) from the field in the game. Tariq Jenkins led the Pioneers with 16 points and Dillon Smith added 14 points as Tusculum pulled within three points in the final minute after trailing 53-36 with just over 11 minutes left.
Carson-Newman shot 51.8 percent (29-for-56) from the field in the game but hit just 7-for-16 from the foul line, missing their first seven attempts as a team. Tusculum outrebounded Carson-Newman 45-33 in the game, including 21 offensive rebounds, but the Pioneers could only converted the second chances into 15 points.
EJ Bush also reached double figures for Carson-Newman as he finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. For Tusculum, Brandon Mitchell filled the stat sheet with 11 points, a game-high nine rebounds and four blocked shots while Trenton Gibson also reached double figures with 11 points along with six rebounds.
Jenkins hit his first three shots from the field, including a pair of three-pointers, as Tusculum built a 10-3 lead on a Gibson layup with 16:43 left in the first half. However, Carson-Newman ran off 12 straight points to go ahead 15-10 on a Reece Anderson basket with 11:51 to go in the half. Tusculum's scoring drought ended after five minutes on a bucket by Joshua Scott but Carson-Newman continued to hold a six-point lead after a Bush layup with 8:33 remaining. Five straight from Tusculum's Smith brought the Pioneers back to within 22-21, but Carson-Newman closed the half by holding Tusculum scoreless for the final 3:15 of the half to take a 33-27 lead at intermission.
Jenkins finished the half as the leading scorer for Tusculum with eight points while Smith added seven and Gibson five. Tusculum shot 11-for-31 (35.5 percent) from the field and 4-for-10 from three-point range in the half, but had 10 offensive rebounds among their 23 total boards. Bush led the Eagles with eight points and four rebounds as Carson-Newman shot 48.3 percent (14-for-29) from the floor and 5-for-9 from beyond the arc in the half.
Carson-Newman opened the second half with an 8-2 run, with back-to-back three-pointers from Luke Brenegan and Davis helping push the Eagles ahead 41-29 with 17:34 to play. Carson-Newman went up 53-36 on a Bush basket with 11:18 to go, but the Pioneers ran off eight straight points to pull within 53-44 on a basket by Caleb Hodnett with 8:59 remaining. Keaston Brown canned a three-pointer with 8:15 to go and Hodnett hit an off-balance shot in the lane as a 15-2 Tusculum run brought the Pioneers back within 55-51 with 7:06 left.
The Eagles appeared to put the game out of reach by hitting their next four shots from the field to extend their lead to 63-53 on a layup by Bryant Thomas with 4:45 to play. However, the Pioneers were not done as a pair of baskets by Gibson pulled Tusculum back within 67-61 with 1:40 left, and a three-point play by Mitchell cut the margin to 67-64 with 54.3 seconds to go. A basket on the break by Davis pushed the Eagles up 69-64 with 46.9 seconds remaining, and Anderson sank two free throws with 31.6 seconds on the clock for insurance.
Tusculum finished the game with 13 steals as a team, led by four from Smith and three by Jenkins. THe Pioneers scored 15 points off the Eagles' 18 turnovers, while Tusculum finished the game with 16 turnovers but just five in the second half.
The Pioneers will return to Pioneer Arena for the first time in two weeks to host Wingate on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bulldogs lost 85-79 at Newberry on Wednesday to drop to 7-8 overall and 3-6 in the SAC, tied for ninth place in the league with the Eagles.