Fourth-quarter Pioneer rally falls short in 73-67 loss at Wingate

Fourth-quarter Pioneer rally falls short in 73-67 loss at Wingate

WINGATE, N.C. --- Tusculum University rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but a late shooting drought allowed Wingate University to come away with a 73-67 victory in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Cuddy Arena.

The Pioneers' Kendrea Duke led all players with 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, but Tusculum (11-4, 4-4 SAC) was held to just two free throws after a three-pointer by Jasmine Williams with 4:26 remaining. Tusculum outshot Wingate in the game, hitting 39.3 percent (24-for-61) from the field, but the Pioneers were 13-for-22 at the foul line while the Bulldogs hit 16-for-20 at the stripe.

Caroline Averette led Wingate (12-4, 7-2 SAC) with 17 points and seven rebounds and Danasia Witherspoon had 12 points and a team-best 11 rebounds. Jo Snow added 15 points, including a key three-pointer with 29 seconds left to give Wingate a 71-67 lead and two free throws with 10 seconds remaining to set the final score. The Bulldogs went 7-for-15 from three-point range against the Pioneers, who were third in Division II in three-point percentage defense (23.8 percent) entering the game.

Duke's 19 points came on 8-for-15 shooting and were one shy of her career high of 20 points set at Belmont Abbey on Nov. 9, while her 17 rebounds easily surpassed her previous career best of 10 rebounds against Catawba on Jan. 27, 2018. Duke, who had nine of her 17 rebounds on the offensive glass, became the first Pioneer with at least 15 rebounds in a game since Kristen McMillion had 16 boards against Wingate on Jan. 30, 2016.

Mia Long, the Division II leader in steals with 4.5 per game, finished with a game-high six steals to go along with 18 points, while Callie Patterson also reached double figures for Tusculum with 14 points. Tusculum was outrebounded 49-36 by Wingate, which had 23 offensive rebounds as a team, and the Pioneers forced a season-low 13 turnovers.

Wingate went out to an early 9-4 lead following a basket by Courtney Robinson with 7:13 left in the first quarter, but a basket by Long and two free throws by Jalia Arnwine enabled the Pioneers to cut the deficit to 9-8. A three-point play by Long tied the game at 11-11 with 4:45 to go in the quarter, and the Pioneers would take their first lead at 16-15 on a layup by Yolizma Cupidan with 2:31 left in the period.

However, Wingate would score six straight points to regain the lead at 21-16 on two foul shots by Jasmine Stephen with 46 seconds left in the quarter. Tusculum would score the final four points of the period, the last three on a three-pointer by Patterson with nine seconds left to bring the Pioneers to within 21-20 after one quarter.

The teams traded the lead four times in the first two minutes of the second quarter, with a basket by Elana Ingram triggering a 6-0 run for Wingate that pushed the Bulldogs to a 30-25 lead with 7:26 left in the first half. Tusculum went back on top 33-32 on a layup by Cupidan with 3:40 remaining in the quarter, but the Pioneers would miss their final five shot attempts as Wingate closed with a 7-0 run to go ahead 39-33 at halftime.

Long and Duke shared the scoring lead for the Pioneers with nine points apiece, with Long adding five steals and Duke grabbing a game-high eight rebounds. Tusculum shot 37.5 percent (12-for-32) from the field and 2-for-13 on three-pointers in the first half, while being outrebounded 23-19 by Wingate. Averette paced the Bulldogs with 13 points on 3-for-4 from three-point range in the half, with six points and six rebounds from Witherspoon and six points by Robinson.

Wingate's lead reached double figures at 44-34 on two foul shots by Averette with 7:08 left in the third quarter. Tusculum made its first basket of the second half on a three-pointer by Patterson with 6:40 to go in the quarter, but Wingate went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the quarter to carry a 59-48 lead into the final period.

A Witherspoon layup left the Bulldogs with a 61-50 lead with 8:50 to go, but a three-pointer by Marta Rodrigues and a jumper by Duke brought Tusculum within 61-55 with 7:50 remaining. Back-to-back buckets by Duke and Patterson cut the Wingate lead to 63-59 with 6:12 to go, and a three-point play by Duke made it a 64-62 Wingate advantage with 5:22 left. After a basket by Witherspoon restored the Bulldogs' four-point lead, Williams drilled a three with 4:26 remaining to pull the Pioneers within 66-65.

Tusculum was able to tie the game on a free throw by Cupidan with 3:01 left, but Jordan Quick scored for Wingate at the other end to give the Bulldogs the lead for good at 68-66 with 2:43 left. A free throw by Patterson with 1:56 remaining brought the Pioneers back within a point, but Tusculum missed on a shot for the lead with just under a minute left. Snow then drilled a three-pointer with 29 seconds left for a 71-67 Wingate lead, and added two free throws after a Tusculum turnover to give Wingate the six-point win.

Cupidan finished with seven points, five rebounds and a team-high four assists for the Pioneers in 38 minutes, as four of Tusculum's five starters played 36 minutes or more. Williams had four rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers.

Quick's go-ahead field goal for Wingate was her only basket of the game, but she went 5-for-6 from the line to finish with seven points along with five rebounds and five assists. Ingram contributed six points and five assists off the bench for the Bulldogs, whose subs outscored the Tusculum bench by a 14-6 margin.

Tusculum will return home to face Newberry on Monday at 2 p.m. at Pioneer Arena in the makeup of a game rescheduled from Dec. 9 due to snow.

- TU -