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Pioneers use 23-0 third-quarter run to roll past Mars Hill, 79-46

Pioneers use 23-0 third-quarter run to roll past Mars Hill, 79-46

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tusculum University outscored Mars Hill University by 32 points in the second half, fueled by a 23-0 run in the third quarter, to earn their sixth straight victory by a score of 79-46 in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.

Mia Long led four players in double figures for the Pioneers (10-2, 3-2 SAC) with a game-high 15 points, and added five rebounds and seven steals. Lovely Locklear added a season-high 14 points and matched her career best with six rebounds, Callie Patterson added 13 points and Yolizma Cupidan contributed 10 as Tusculum outscored Mars Hill 47-15 in the second half after trailing for nearly the entire first half.

Tatum Boggs was the only player to reach double figures for the Lions (1-8, 0-5 SAC), scoring 12 points and adding six rebounds. However, Mars Hill turned the ball over 34 times which led to 40 points for the Pioneers and the Lions shot 28.3 percent (13-for-46) from the field in the game.

Tusculum finished the game at 34.1 percent (28-for-82) from the field, and hit 10 three-pointers in 45 attempts to set a school and SAC single-game record for three-pointers attempted in a game. The previous SAC record was 43 three-point attempts by Wingate against Newberry during the 1997-98 season, and the old Tusculum record was 39 attempts against Columbus State on Dec. 29, 2006.

Patterson led the Pioneers from long range by hitting 3-for-10 while Locklear and Maddie Sutton hit a pair of threes each. Tusculum shot 8-for-25 from beyond the arc in the second half after making just two of 20 tries in the opening half. Mars Hill was just 2-for-19 from long range against the second-best three-point percentage defense in Division II, as Tusculum entered the game allowing its opponents 41 three-pointers in 184 attempts (22.3 percent).

Tusculum had led from start to finish in each of its previous three wins, but trailed 4-0 as the Lions opened the scoring with a pair of baskets from Shayla Smith. Tusculum hit its first field goal with 7:02 left in the quarter on a layup by Cupidan, but Mars Hill held a 12-7 lead after a basket by Baylea Loven with 3:41 left in the quarter. The Pioneers would rally to a 12-12 tie following a three-pointer by Sutton, but the Lions used a 6-0 run from the foul line to take an 18-14 lead after the opening period.

Mars Hill's lead never expanded past four points in the second quarter, but Tusculum was unable to get back into a tie until a layup by Long with 3:27 to go knotted the score at 26-26. The Pioneers took their first lead at 30-28 on a steal and layup by Long with 2:01 left in the half, and went ahead at 32-30 on a layup by Cupidan in the final minute of the half.

Tusculum led 32-31 at halftime as Cupidan, Long and Sutton had seven points apiece to lead the Pioneers. Tusculum shot 13-for-39 (33.3 percent) as a team in the first half but scored 21 points off 18 turnovers by Mars Hill. Loven was the leading scorer for the Lions with seven points while Boggs and Mariah Johnson had six points apiece. Mars Hill shot 15-for-19 from the foul line in the opening half and went 8-for-20 from the field as a team.

Boggs hit a three-pointer on the opening possession of the second half to briefly regain the lead at 34-32, but the Lions would not score again for seven minutes as they missed eight straight shots and turned the ball over seven times during the drought. Meanwhile, Tusculum would run off 23 consecutive points as Long and Patterson scored five points apiece during the surge, which was broken by a Johnson putback for Mars Hill with 2:56 left in the period.

Tusculum's lead was 58-38 entering the fourth quarter and did not dip below 20 points in the final period, growing to as high as 35 points following a three-pointer by Mya Belton in the final minute.

Kendrea Duke finished with a team-high seven rebounds for the Pioneers, including five on the offensive glass, and had six points while Jalia Arnwine just missed double figures with nine points and a career-best five rebounds. Sutton, who missed the previous five games due to injury, returned to contribute seven points and five rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers, with Belton adding a pair of rebounds to go with her three points. Brittney Cupp made her Tusculum debut in the fourth quarter and chipped in with two points and a pair of rebounds.

Mars Hill held a slim 46-44 rebounding advantage over Tusculum, though the Pioneers had 22 offensive rebounds which were converted into 23 second-chance points. Alexis Pardue led the Lions with seven rebounds, Boggs had six and Loven five. The Lions shot 18-for-23 (78.3 percent) at the foul line as a team while the Pioneers were 13-for-21 (61.9 percent) at the stripe in the game.

Tusculum's six-game winning streak is its longest in seven years, since January 2012, and the Pioneers have opened January with four consecutive victories for the first time since 2009. The Pioneers, who are 5-0 at home, continue their three-game homestand on Saturday against Coker beginning at 2 p.m. at Pioneer Arena.

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