GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Dillon Smith scored 17 points on Senior Day, while Trenton Gibson tallied his fourth double-double of the season as the Tusculum University men's basketball team rallied to a 71-59 South Atlantic Conference victory over Coker University Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena.
The Pioneers (18-10, 13-7 SAC) record their fourth consecutive win and clinch a top-four seed in next month's SAC Tournament and will host a quarterfinal game on March 4. Tusculum's 18 wins are the most in over a decade and tie for the third-most during the NCAA Division II era for the Pioneers (1998-present).
Smith scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, while Gibson tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds to go along with his six assists. Brandon Mitchell added nine points off the bench, while Adrian Cohen scored his eight points in the second half including a dunk which sparked a key 12-2 run to give the Pioneers the lead for good.
The Cobras' Chandler Lindsey led all scorers with 22 points while Williams Onyedoi finished with 10 markers in the loss.
Coker (6-18, 5-15 SAC) used a 10-3 run late in the first half to take a 30-23 lead with 1:17 remaining in the first half following a layup by Jaylin Stewart and would take a 31-26 lead into the locker room.
The Pioneers scored the first eight points of the second half including back-to-back buckets by Smith, a layup by Cohen and two Gibson free throws as TU led 34-31 with 15 minutes remaining. The Cobras answered with baskets by Williams Onyeodi and Malcolm Kennedy to retake the lead at 35-34 with 14:41 on the scoreboard.
Justin Mitchell drained a three-pointer for Tusculum before Stewart tied the game at 37-37 with his jumper at the 13:36 mark of the period. The two teams traded baskets before Cohen's steal and dunk started the 12-2 run which also included a Smith triple and a basket from Gibson as TU led 46-39 with 10 minutes to go.
Coker cut the TU lead to 46-41 after a Ryan Carfley basket, but seven straight points by Tusculum including consecutive field goals by Cohen and a Smith three-pointer as the Pioneers pushed the lead to double-digits for the first time of the game (53-41) with 6:26 remaining.
The Pioneers would push the lead out to 15 points on three occasions before settling for the 12-point victory and avenge last month's loss to the Cobras.
The Pioneers finished the game shooting 51 percent from the floor, including 15-of-25 in the second half (60%). TU dominated the glass, out-rebounding Coker by a 43-23 margin.
Hodnett accounted for two points, but pulled down nine rebounds and recorded two steals. Jenkins finished with six points, while Justin Mitchell also scored six points, both coming on three-pointers. Cameron King added three points and three rebounds along with his 48 career blocked shot, moving him into sole possession of seventh place in the TU record book.
Tusculum, who is listed 10th in this week's NCAA Division II Southeast Region rankings, will close out the regular season with a pair of road games next week against No. 2 Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday and Wingate on Saturday.
The Pioneers are two games clear of Anderson University who is in fifth place with an 11-9 conference record. Tusculum holds the tiebreaker with its season-sweep over the Trojans.