GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- A balanced attack helped lift Tusculum to a 77-55 victory over Belmont Abbey in non-conference women's basketball action Thursday night at Pioneer Arena.
Kasey Johnson, Yolizma Cupidan and Sydney Wilson each scored 14 points and Mia Long added 12 points for the Pioneers (3-0), who led by 16 points at halftime and by as many as 25 points in the second half. Tusculum connected on 11 three-pointers as a team while limiting the Crusaders to 2-for-18 from beyond the arc.
Emry Tsitouris paced the Crusaders (1-3) with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds, but Belmont Abbey shot 32.7 percent (18-for-55) from the field in the game. Allie Downing and Keyanna Spivey finished with eight points and five rebounds apiece for the Crusaders, with Keyla Hines adding eight points in 11 minutes off the bench.
Tusculum never trailed in the game, breaking an early 2-2 tie on back-to-back layups by Johnson that sparked a 13-4 run over a span of 4 1/2 minutes. The Pioneers finished the quarter with eight of the last nine points, including back-to-back three-pointers from Cupidan and Johnson, to take a 23-9 lead after one quarter.
Another three-pointer from Cupidan and two in a 45-second span from Callie Patterson gave Tusculum a 32-14 lead with 6:37 to go in the first half, but the Crusaders crept back within 11 at 36-25 on a three-pointer by Downing with 1:48 remaining. Wilson sank the Pioneers' sixth three-pointer of the first half in the closing seconds to send Tusculum to the locker room with a 41-25 lead.
Johnson led all players with 11 points in the first half as Tusculum shot 53.3 percent (16-for-30) from the field. Wilson had seven points for the Pioneers, with six points apiece by Cupidan and Patterson. The Crusaders, who shot 36 percent (9-for-25) from the floor, were led by seven points each from Tsitouris and Spivey in the opening half.
Tusculum opened the second half with six straight points on a three-point play from Cupidan and a three-pointer by Long, the latter giving the Pioneers a 47-25 lead with 8:10 left in the third quarter. A three-pointer from Lovely Locklear gave the Pioneers their largest lead of the night at 53-28 with 5:25 remaining, and the lead never dipped below 17 as Tusculum went to the fourth quarter holding a 61-42 lead.
The Pioneer lead would reach 25 points twice more in the fourth quarter, on a three-pointer from Wilson with 3:22 left for a 75-50 lead, and on a putback by Patton for a 77-52 advantage with 2:09 to play.
Locklear finished with seven points and four rebounds for the Pioneers, while Sutton had six points and five rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. Cupidan paced Tusculum with six boards in the game, while Patton and Wilson had five rebounds apiece. In addition to her 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting, Johnson had four rebounds, a team-high four assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
Tusculum outrebounded Belmont Abbey by a 37-31 margin, and the Pioneers went 10-for-15 at the foul line while the Crusaders were 17-for-22 at the stripe. Tusculum turned the ball over 18 times which led to 10 points for Belmont Abbey, while the Crusaders had 17 miscues which the Pioneers converted into 15 points.
The Pioneers will be back home Friday night against North Greenville in their final home non-conference game of the season beginning at 6 p.m. at Pioneer Arena.