Pioneers hold off Livingstone surge for 76-56 win

Pioneers hold off Livingstone surge for 76-56 win

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tusculum University built a 20-point halftime lead, then withstood a second-half run by Livingstone College before pulling away for a 76-56 victory Thursday afternoon at Pioneer Arena.

Yolizma Cupidan finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Pioneers (8-2), who won for the second time in less than 24 hours to improve their non-conference record to 7-0 and earn their fourth straight victory overall. Kendrea Duke added 13 points and eight rebounds, Jalia Arnwine equaled her season high with 12 points and Mia Long scored 10 for the Pioneers, who led 36-16 at halftime before the Blue Bears rallied to within six in the fourth quarter.

Asia Green scored a game-high 19 points and Kyala Searcy added 14 points and eight rebounds for Livingstone (3-9), which outshot Tusculum 38.7 percent to 35.8 percent from the field and had a 46-42 edge in rebounding. However, the Blue Bears turned the ball over 22 times which led to 26 points for the Pioneers. Daisa Harris had a team-high 10 rebounds, but was held well below her season scoring average of 21.4 points per game as she shot 2-for-9 from the field and fouled out with just five points in 36 minutes.

Tusculum scored the first points of the game on an Arnwine three-pointer and never trailed, leading 17-7 at the end of the first quarter as Livingstone shot just 2-for-12 from the floor as a team in the opening quarter.

The Pioneer advantage would increase to 16 points as a free throw from Duke gave the Pioneers a 28-12 lead with 4:26 left in the half. Tusculum's lead swelled to 20 points in the final minute of the half as Arnwine, Jasmine Williams and Cupidan all came up with steals and breakaway layups to extend the Tusculum lead to 36-16 at intermission.

Cupidan and Arnwine led the Pioneers with eight points apiece in the first half while Williams had seven points and four rebounds. Tusculum shot 35.9 percent (14-for-39) from the field and had 18 points off 12 turnovers by Livingstone. The Blue Bears were led by Searcy who had eight points and five rebounds in the half, but the team shot 6-for-26 (23.1 percent) from the floor and hit just one of eight three-point attempts.

Tusculum's offense sputtered early in the third quarter, as the Pioneers missed their first six shots and turned the ball over three times after committing just two turnovers in the first half. Back-to-back jumpers by the Blue Bears' I'Keya Bland cut the Pioneer lead to 37-28 with 5:30 to play in the third quarter, but back-to-back buckets by Duke and Long got the Tusculum lead back into double figures. Cupidan and Marta Rodrigues drained threes in the final two minutes of the period to boost the Pioneer lead to 48-34 entering the final quarter.

The Pioneers led 52-35 following a foul shot by Arnwine with 8:37 remaining, but the Blue Bears roared to life with an 11-0 run which cut the margin to 52-46 with 5:44 to play. A three-point play by Duke gave the Pioneers a 57-48 advantage with 3:55 remaining, triggering a 10-0 run that included another three-point play by Duke with 2:33 left which pushed the Pioneer lead to 64-48.

Tusculum, which at one point was 5-for-15 from the foul line as a team, connected on 15 of its last 16 attempts from the stripe in the final 8 1/2 minutes to finish 20-for-31 (64.5 percent) on free throws in the game. Callie Patterson went 6-for-6 in the final four minutes, including four in a row following a pair of technical fouls against the Blue Bears.

Patterson finished the game with those six points from the foul line along with a team-high eight rebounds. Williams had seven points to go with four rebounds, a career-best three steals and a season-high three blocked shots, one shy of her career high. Lovely Locklear also contributed off the bench for Tusculum with five points, three rebounds and two steals, and Mya Belton had three points and two rebounds.

Rodrigues, who set a NCAA Division II single-game high for this season with 11 steals against Bluefield State the previous evening, had two steals against Livingstone and added six points, three rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers. Long, who ranks second in Division II with 4.1 steals per game, ran into early foul trouble but still finished with two steals and went 6-for-10 at the foul line in 18 minutes of action.

Tusculum will resume its South Atlantic Conference schedule on Saturday at Lenoir-Rhyne, with a 2 p.m. tipoff against the Bears from Shuford Memorial Gymnasium in the first of two meetings this season.