CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Tusculum shot a season-best 50 percent from the field and used another big first-quarter run to defeat Queens 68-55 in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon at the Levine Center.
Kendrea Duke reached double figures for the fourth straight game with 15 points and a game-high seven rebounds off the bench for the Pioneers (13-4, 8-3 SAC), who led by as many as 19 points in the first half before the Royals (4-13, 1-10 SAC) pulled within six early in the fourth quarter.
Duke shot 7-for-10 from the field for the Pioneers, who received 14 points from Kasey Johnson and 13 from Sydney Wilson to win for the fifth time in six games overall and for the third straight time on the road. Tusculum shot 28-for-56 from the field and 5-for-10 from three-point range, while outrebounding the Royals by a 36-22 margin.
Lade Adepoju and Mendy McNeese scored 19 points apiece to lead the Royals, with McNeese connecting on three three-pointers in 31 minutes off the bench. However, the rest of the team combined for 17 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the field. Queens also turned the ball over 26 times, which Tusculum was able to convert into 36 points.
Queens took its only lead of the game at 2-0 on a basket by Adepoju in the opening 40 seconds, but the Royals would go scoreless for the next 4 1/2 minutes as the Pioneers made eight consecutive shots and scored 17 straight points to take a 15-point lead. Wilson had seven points during the Pioneer surge, with four points apiece from Johnson and Mia Long. It was the second straight game that Tusculum responded to an opening basket with a double-digit run, following a 16-0 spurt in Thursday's win over Anderson.
Tusculum shot 64.7 percent (11-for-17) from the field in the first quarter to take a 26-10 lead, paced by seven points apiece from Wilson and Johnson. A Wilson three-pointer with 5:04 left in the second quarter gave the Pioneers their largest lead of the game at 33-14, but Tusculum went 2-for-8 from the field the rest of the half to go to halftime with a 39-24 lead.
Wilson led the Pioneers with 13 points in the first half on 4-for-5 shooting, as Tusculum shot 16-for-32 from the field as a team. Johnson had seven points and Long added six for Tusculum, which outrebounded Queens 20-10 and forced the Royals into 12 turnovers. McNeese had nine points to lead the Royals in the first half, but Queens shot 38.1 percent (8-for-21) in the half as a team.
Queens opened the second half with a 10-2 run, which included three-point plays from Adepoju and McNeese, the latter with 5:14 to go in the third quarter to trim the Tusculum lead to 41-34. Tusculum went ahead 50-38 on a layup by Yolizma Cupidan with 2:08 to go in the third quarter, but Adepoju scored the final four points of the period to send the Pioneers to the final quarter ahead 50-42.
Back-to-back baskets by the Royals' Kristian Eanes brought Queens to within 52-46 with 9:14 left, but Duke answered with back-to-back hoops to restore Tusculum's 10-point advantage. After a three-pointer from McNeese pulled the Royals within 56-49 with 8:05 to go, the teams went scoreless for the next two minutes until a Johnson layup triggered a 9-0 Pioneer run that left Tusculum ahead 65-49 with just under three minutes to play.
Johnson had six rebounds and tied her career high with four steals for the Pioneers, while Long just missed double figures with eight points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. All nine Pioneers who played in the game had at least two points, and eight of the nine had at least one steal.
Adepoju had a team-high six rebounds for the Royals, but Queens was unable to keep Tusculum off the offensive glass. The Pioneers had 16 offensive rebounds in the game, which they turned into 16 points, and Tusculum also outscored Queens in the paint bya 42-28 margin.
Queens finished the game shooting 45.5 percent (20-for-44) from the field and 5-for-9 from three-point range. The Royals were 10-for-15 at the foul line, while the Pioneesr shot 7-for-12 at the stripe as a team. Queens did force Tusculum into 23 turnovers, which were converted into 20 points for the Royals.
Tusculum will be back on the road Wednesday at Lincoln Memorial for a 6 p.m. tipoff with the Railsplitters. The Pioneers won the first meeting between the teams 76-72 at Pioneer Arena on Nov. 29.