GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- After taking a week off for finals, the Tusculum University women's basketball team returns to action with a pair of South Atlantic Conference games this week against UVa-Wise and Queens.
The Pioneers (7-2, 2-1 SAC), who have been idle since a 61-47 win at Newberry on Saturday. Dec. 7, host UVa-Wise on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Pioneer Arena, then travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to face Queens on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Tusculum enters the week in sole possession of fifth place in the conference, having played one fewer game than every other team except Queens. Catawba is the sole unbeaten team in the league, sitting in first place at 4-0 in conference play and 8-0 overall, followed by Anderson (4-1), Wingate and Lincoln Memorial (each 3-1) and Tusculum at 2-1.
UVa-Wise (6-3, 2-2 SAC) is in its first season as a member of the SAC and owns victories over Mars Hill (87-64) and Newberry (79-75), along with a two-point loss to Anderson (64-62). The Cavaliers are 2-2 in road/neutral games and rank third in the conference with an average of 80.3 points per game. UVA-Wise is also the best-shooting team in the league at 47.8 percent.
A trio of Cavaliers are averaging in double figures this season, led by senior forward Cynita Webb at 16.7 points per game (6th in the SAC) and 11.4 rebounds per contest (2nd in the SAC). Webb has scored in double figures in all but one game, and has four 20-point games to her credit including 26 points and 17 rebounds in an 82-74 win over Lees-McRae on Nov. 18. Webb has six double-doubles this season and is second in the league in field-goal percentage at 60.9 percent.
Freshman guard Caitlyn Ross is averaging 15.0 points per game, eighth-best in the conference, and is fifth in field-goal percentage (56.0 percent) and free-throw percentage (87.2 percent). Ross, who averages a league-high 36.0 minutes per game, is coming off back-to-back 25-point outings against Catawba and Newberry which gave her SAC Player of the Week honors.
Also in double figures for the Cavaliers is junior forward Kalee Johnson at 13.6 points per game (11th in the SAC). Johnson has reached double figures six times in nine games, scoring 21 against both Concord and Catawba. Sophomore guard Mackenzie King is third in the SAC in three-point percentage (48.6 percent, 17-for-35) and averages 8.8 points per game.
The Pioneers and Cavaliers have a lengthy history dating to the 1990s, when UVa-Wise was known as Clinch Valley and shared membership with Tusculum in the Tennessee-Virginia Athletic Conference. The Pioneers are 16-6 all-time against the Cavaliers, but UVa-Wise has won the last two meetings -- Nov. 28, 2015 at Wise (74-66) and Nov. 26, 2016 at Greeneville (63-58).
Queens (2-7, 1-2 SAC) will play at Coker on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. before hosting Tusculum on Saturday. The Royals' two victories came on the road against August on Nov. 16 (67-61) and at home against Lenoir-Rhyne on Nov. 30 (72-57). Queens is 1-4 at home this season after going 6-9 on its home court a year ago.
The Royals are next-to-last in the conference in scoring average (61.2 points per game) and are near the bottom of the league in field-goal percentage (37.3 percent), three-point percentage (20.2 percent) and rebounding margin (-9.5 per game).
Junior guard Kristian Eanes is the top scorer for the Royals at 16.3 points per game, shooting 50.9 percent from the field. Sophomore forward Jaleah Goff is also in double figures at 10.4 points per game, but has been absent from the Queens lineup since Nov. 20 against Young Harris. Queens has made just 28 three-pointers in its first nine games, led by freshman guard Kelsey Leedle with nine.
Tusculum has beaten Queens four straight meetings and leads the all-time series 12-3, with a 9-3 record in six seasons that the Royals have been a SAC member. The Pioneers are 4-2 at the Levine Center, winning there 58-41 on Feb. 9 of last season in the most-recent meeting between the teams.
Tusculum leads the SAC in steals (12.4 per game) and in scoring defense (58.2 ppg), is second in turnovers forced per game (24.2), and ranks third in three-pointers per game (7.8), free-throw percentage (72.3 percent) and fewest turnovers per game (15.4). The Pioneers have won the turnover battle in eight of their nine games and have outrebounded their opponents six times.
Individually, senior guard Mia Long is the Pioneers' leading scorer at 13.8 points per game. Long is second in the SAC in steals per game at 3.4 per contest, tied with UVA-Wise's Ross and second only to Queens' Eanes at 3.6 per game. Senior forward Kasey Johnson leads Tusculum with 6.7 rebounds per game followed by junior center Maddie Sutton, who has 6.1 rebounds per game and is averaging 9.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting.
FOLLOW THE GAME
Brian Stayton and Justin Jeffers describe all the action of Tusculum women's basketball on the Pioneer Sports Network. Fans can listen to the games locally on WSMG Radio at 95.5 FM and 1450 AM, and on-line at jewel955.com. The Pioneer Pre-Game show begins 15 minutes before tip-off, at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday prior to the UVa-Wise game and at 1:45 p.m. Saturday before the Queens contest. Live video and live stats links are also available at www.TusculumPioneers.com.