GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's basketball team will play at Wingate University in the quarterfinal round of the Pilot/Flying J South Atlantic Conference Championship tournament Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Cuddy Arena in Wingate, North Carolina.
The Pioneers were awarded the seventh seed in the tournament after finishing with a conference record of 8-8. Tusculum was tied for fifth in the final standings with Newberry and Lincoln Memorial, but lost the tiebreaker with the Wolves and Railsplitters. The Pioneers are making their second straight appearance in the SAC tournament, and will be looking for their first win since 2013.
Wingate, the defending SAC Championship tournament runner-up, is the number-two seed in the field after finishing 15-5 in the league and 20-7 overall. The Bulldogs were tied with Carson-Newman for second place in the final standings, but won the tiebreaker due to a sweep of the season series.
Tusculum and Wingate are meeting for the fourth time in the SAC Championship tournament all-time, with the Bulldogs winning two of the previous three meetings. Wingate beat Tusculum 70-47 in the 2005 quarterfinals and 76-74 in the 2008 championship game. The Pioneers defeated the Bulldogs 77-66 in the 2011 title game in the most-recent meeting between the two in the tournament.
Wingate won both meetings with Tusculum during the regular season, earning a 73-67 victory at Cuddy Arena on Jan. 19 and 51-47 in overtime in Saturday's regular-season finale in Greeneville. Wingate has won six straight meetings and owns a 32-12 lead in the all-time series.
Tusculum has four players who average in double figures, led by junior guard Mia Long at 12.3 points per game. Long leads Division II in steals per game at 4.1 per contest and has scored in double figures 19 times in 26 games.
Senior forward Yolizma Cupidan had her streak of 12 straight games in double figures end in Saturday's loss to Wingate, but she still averages 11.3 points per game and ranks fourth in the conference in field goal percentage at 50.2 percent.
Senior center Kendrea Duke is third on the team in scoring at 10.7 points per game and leads the Pioneers with 6.6 rebounds per game. Duke has reached double figures in scoring 16 times, including five of the last seven games, and is shooting 79.7 percent (47-for-56) at the foul line over the last 12 contests.
Tusculum's fourth player in double figures is senior guard Callie Patterson, who is tied for third in the conference with an average of 2.2 three-pointers per game. She averages 10.5 points per game but has come off the bench in the last six contests since sitting out four games with an injury.
Sophomore guard Jalia Arnwine (7.4 ppg) and junior forward Jasmine Williams (5.7 ppg) have also been involved in the Pioneer offense, primarily from three-point range. Arnwine, who has started 21 games, has canned 39 three-pointers to rank second on the team to Patterson's 54, while Williams has gone 24-for-64 from beyond the arc in the last 15 games after making just four threes in her first 44 career games.
Tusculum's areas of strength this year have been its ability to force turnovers and three-point shooting. The Pioneers, who allow a SAC-best 55.3 points per game, are among the top five in Division II with 23.6 turnovers forced per game, and in three-point percentage defense at 25.8 percent. Tusculum has connected on 215 three-pointers this season, the fourth-most in a single season in school history, and has nine players who have reached double figures from beyond the arc.
Wingate is second to Tusculum in the SAC in scoring defense at 58.7 points per game. The Bulldogs lead the conference in rebound margin at 11.2 per game, and rank third in free-throw percentage at 75.7 percent.
Senior guard Caroline Averette is the Bulldogs' lone player averaging in double figures at 14.6 points per game. She leads the team with 34 three-pointers and is shooting 88.8 percent from the foul line. Senior forward Danasia Witherspoon is averaging 8.7 points per game and is fifth in the conference in rebounding at 8.2 per contest.
Sophomore forward Teliyah Jeter is averaging 7.1 boards per game to rank seventh in the SAC and leads the conference with 2.8 blocks per game despite averaging just 19.9 minutes per game off the bench. Jeter nearly had a triple double against Tusculum in Saturday's game, finishing with 11 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
Tusculum's last win at Cuddy Arena was on Dec. 13, 2015 by a 57-56 score, which was followed two months later by the Pioneers' last win over the Bulldogs on Jan. 30, 2016 in overtime by a score of 82-73. Wingate has won 17 of the 22 all-time meetings with Tusculum at home.
Wednesday's winner will advance to the semifinals at Timmons Arena in Greenville, South Carolina to face the winner of the quarterfinal game between third-seeded Carson-Newman and sixth-seeded Lincoln Memorial, in a game that will be played Saturday at 2:30. The semifinal winners will square off for the SAC Championship on Sunday at 1 p.m., with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.
South Atlantic Conference Women's Basketball Championship
Quarterfinals - Wednesday, March 6
#8 Catawba at #1 Anderson, 7:00
#5 Newberry at #4 Lenoir-Rhyne, 7:00
#7 Tusculum at #2 Wingate, 7:00
#6 Lincoln Memorial at #3 Carson-Newman, 7:00
Semifinals - Saturday, March 9 at Greenville, S.C.
Catawba/Anderson winner vs. Newberry/Lenoir-Rhyne winner, 12:00
Tusculum/Wingate winner vs. Lincoln Memorial/Carson-Newman winner, 2:30
Finals - Sunday, March 10 at Greenville, S.C.
Semifinal winners, 1:00