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Wilson scores career-high 28, Pioneers rally to beat UVa-Wise 89-85

Wilson scores career-high 28, Pioneers rally to beat UVa-Wise 89-85

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Sydney Wilson scored a career-high 28 points as Tusculum University rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half to defeat UVa-Wise 89-85 Wednesday night in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action at Pioneer Arena.

Mia Long shook off first-half foul trouble to set her Tusculum career high in scoring with 24 points, and Kasey Johnson matched her season high with 20 points for the Pioneers (8-2, 3-1 SAC), who shot a season-best 50.8 percent (33-for-65) from the field including 10-for-15 during the decisive fourth quarter.

Cynita Webb led the Cavaliers (6-4, 2-3 SAC) with 28 points and 15 rebounds and Nia Vanzant added 23 points off the bench, but UVa-Wise shot just 33.3 percent (7-for-21) in the fourth quarter after leading 58-44 midway through the third quarter. Four reached double figures for the Cavaliers, with Caitlyn Ross adding 12 points, five rebounds and five assists and Mackenzie King chipping in with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Long was 12-for-16 from the field in the game, making all five of her shots in the fourth quarter including four straight baskets that gave the Pioneers an 87-83 lead in the final minute. Long's 24 points surpassed her previous high at Tusculum of 23 points set four previous times. Her collegiate high game is 26 points which she recorded as a freshman at Concordia (Michigan) against Madonna on Feb. 18, 2017.

Wilson made a career-best 10 field goals in 23 attempts, including four three-pointers, to surpass her career high of 26 points set against Wingate on Dec. 16, 2017. Wilson, who played all 40 minutes, scored 16 of her 28 points in the second half and added four steals and three rebounds.

Johnson connected on seven shots in 11 attempts, going 2-for-3 from three-point range, and was a perfect 4-for-4 at the foul line to equal her season high of 20 points set against King on Nov. 9. Johnson also had nine rebounds in the game for the Pioneers, who were outrebounded 42-33 by the Cavaliers in a game that featured nine ties and 18 lead changes.

Wilson, Long and Johnson gave Tusculum its first trio of 20-point scorers in the same game since March 13, 2010 against Francis Marion when Jasmine Gunn (45), Catherine Hintz (21) and Jasmine Parker (20) did so in a 103-96 win over the Patriots in the NCAA Division II Southeast Region semifinals.

Long was on fire early for the Pioneers, making five of her first six shots in the opening five minutes for 10 points as the teams were tied 12-12. The Cavaliers went up by five, but the Pioneers came back to tie the game at 20-20 on a layup by Wilson and a three-pointer by Johnson with 2:25 left in the first quarter. Long then picked up her second foul with 1:53 left in the quarter, but Wilson picked up the slack by scoring the Pioneers' final five points of the period as Tusculum took a 25-24 lead after one.

The teams swapped the lead five times in the first four minutes of the second quarter before a pair of layups by Vanzant gave the Cavaliers a 35-32 lead with 4:37 left in the half. UVa-Wise then closed the half with a 7-0 run, scoring on a three-pointer by Vanzant and buckets by Webb and Ross to go on top 46-37 at intermission.

Wilson was the leading scorer in the first half with 12 points for the Pioneers, who played the entire second quarter without Long's 10 points on the floor. Tusculum shot 45.5 percent (15-for-33) from the field and 4-for-15 from three-point range in the half. For the Cavaliers, Webb and Vanzant shared the team lead with 10 points while Ross had eight and King seven. UVa-Wise used a scorching second quarter (10-for-14 from the field) to shoot 64.5 percent (20-for-31) in the opening half as a team.

A basket by Webb and a three-pointer by King pushed the Cavaliers to their largest lead at 51-37 with 8:54 left in the third quarter. The lead went back up to 14 at 58-44 on a foul shot by Ada Stanley with 5:48 remaining in the period, but Tusculum answered with a 7-0 run that included a layup by Long, a three-pointer from Wilson and a bucket from Johnson to pull within 58-51 with 4:34 left in the quarter. The Pioneers' run went to 19-5 when Wilson hit a basket with 1:47 remaining to tie the game at 63-63, but the Cavaliers finished the quarter with four points from Vanzant to go ahead 67-63.

Tusculum took its first lead since early in the second quarter on a three-pointer by Wilson with 8:17 remaining in the game, and stretched the lead to four at 73-69 on a layup by Johnson with 7:03 left. UVa-Wise took its last lead at 81-79 on a three-point play by Webb with 3:40 to go, but Long took over as she scored on four straight Pioneer possessions as Tusculum went up 87-83 with 1:13 left. Vanzant pulled the Cavaliers back within two in the final minute, but Ross missed a potential tying layup with 15 seconds left and Wilson sank two free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining to set the final margin.

Maddie Sutton, who also battled four trouble in the first half along with Long, finished with a team-high 10 rebounds and added seven points in 23 minutes for the Pioneers. Off the bench, Brianna Dixon played 22 minutes and chipped in with five points and three assists. Tusculum's bench was outscored by the UVa-Wise reserves by a 24-7 margin, largely due to the 23 points in 37 minutes contributed by Vanzant.

UVa-Wise finished the game with 20 turnovers, off which Tusculum scored 17 points. The Pioneers had 13 turnovers in the game, leading to 13 points for the Cavaliers. Tusculum outscored UVa-Wise 20-16 on fast breaks and had a slim 9-8 edge in second-chance points.

The Pioneers will play their final conference game of 2019 on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Charlotte against Queens. The Royals are 3-7 overall but 2-2 in SAC play with wins over Lenoir-Rhyne and Coker.

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