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Pioneers shake off slow start, rally for 66-57 win over Queens

Pioneers shake off slow start, rally for 66-57 win over Queens

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tusculum overcame a slow start to earn a 66-57 victory over Queens University of Charlotte in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena.

Yolizma Cupidan led the Pioneers (7-1, 2-0 SAC) with 18 points and five steals as four players scored in double figures for Tusculum, which missed 16 of its first 18 field-goal attempts but recovered to shoot an even 50 percent from the floor in the second half.

Kasey Johnson added 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Pioneers, who outrebounded the Royals 47-34 in the game. Sydney Wilson chipped in with 11 points off the bench and Mia Long added 10 points as Tusculum took the lead just before halftime and never relinquished it in the second half.

Lade Adepoju led the Royals (2-4, 0-2 SAC) with 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting, while Herning Wang added 10 points and a team-high eight boards. Kristian Eanes came off the bench to score 10 points for Queens, which did not turn the ball over in the first 8 1/2 minutes but finished the game with 22 miscues.

The win was the sixth straight at home for the Pioneers, which is the longest home winning streak for Tusculum since winning 15 in a row spanning the 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Tusculum has also won seven of its first eight games for the first time since going 14-1 to start the 2008-09 season.

Queens took the lead on the game's first possession on a basket by Adepoju, and used an 8-0 run to build their lead to 14-5 on two foul shots by Ceara Leavai with 1:50 to go in the opening quarter. Meanwhile, Tusculum missed 11 consecutive shots over a span of 5 1/2 minutes as the deficit ballooned to 10 points at 17-7 on a three-pointer by Queens' Mendy McNeese with 39 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Adepoju gave Queens its largest lead of the game at 19-7 with two free throws in the opening minute of the second quarter, and the lead stayed at 10 points at 21-11 on a Wang layup with 7:22 to play in the half. However, the Pioneers came back with nine straight points to pull within 21-20 on a layup by Cupidan with 1:46 to go in the half.

Queens went 0-for-5 from the field and had five turnovers during their 5 1/2 minute scoring drought, which was broken on a layup by Adepoju with 1:06 to go which gave the Royals a 23-20 lead. Wilson tied the game on a three-pointer with 42 seconds left in the half, and Cupidan gave Tusculum its first lead on a jumper with two seconds to go which sent the Pioneers to the locker room with a 25-23 lead.

Tusculum shot 24.4 percent (10-for-41) from the field in the first half, and hit just two of 14 three-point attempts. Cupidan led the Pioneers with nine points, while Johnson had four points and a game-high eight rebounds. Queens, which shot 37.5 percent (9-for-24), was led by Adepoju with 10 points. Tusculum outrebounded Queens 31-15 in the first half, including 19 offensive boards.

The Pioneers built their lead to six points at 31-25 on a steal and layup by Long with 8:24 to go in the third quarter, and went ahead by seven at 40-33 on a layup by Johnson with 4:45 left. Queens trimmed the lead to two on a three-pointer by Leavai and a layup by Eanes, but Tusculum was able to head into the fourth quarter with a six-point lead after a bucket by Callie Patterson in the closing seconds of the period.

Two free throws by Wang brought the Royals within 48-46 with 8:53 left, but back-to-back baskets from Wilson pushed the Pioneers back ahead 52-46 with 7:33 to play. Queens would get no closer than four points the rest of the way as Tusculum shot 10-for-14 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, including 2-for-2 efforts from Wilson and Martoria Patton in the final 40 seconds.

Patton finished with eight rebounds and scored four points in 24 minutes for the Pioneers, while Patterson contributed five points and three rebounds in 14 minutes off the Tusculum bench. Wilson, who entered the game leading the SAC in bench scoring with 12.0 points per game, contributed four rebounds, four assists and four steals to go along with her 11 points in 29 minutes of action.

As a team, Tusculum had 15 steals in the game, just off their conference-leading average of 15.7 steals per game. The Pioneers have reached double figures in steals in six of their eight games, and have forced at least 17 turnovers in all eight games. Against Queens, the Pioneers scored 21 points off the Royals' 22 turnovers.

McNeese, a graduate of nearby North Greene High School, finished with eight points on 3-for-7 shooting and had two rebounds and two steals, while playing just 21 minutes due to foul trouble. Leavai also finished with eight points and had four assists for the Royals.

Tusculum will prepare for their first road conference game of the season next Saturday, Dec. 9 at Catawba.

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