HICKORY, N.C. --- Kasey Johnson scored a career-high 34 points and Mia Long added a season-high 25 points as Tusculum University recovered after squandering a late fourth-quarter lead to defeat Lenoir-Rhyne University 88-84 in double overtime in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Wednesday evening at Shuford Memorial Gymnasium.
The Pioneers (15-4, 10-3 SAC) used a 9-0 run in the second overtime period to pull away after the Bears (8-11, 6-7 SAC) had forced overtime by scoring twice in the final 1.8 seconds of regulation, with a free throw by Hanna McClung with 0.4 seconds left tying the game at 71-71.
Johnson, who set a career high by playing every second of the 50 minutes, shot 12-for-24 from the field, 4-for-10 from three-point range and 6-for-8 from the foul line to surpass her previous career best of 28 points set against Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18, 2017. Johnson, whose previous season high was 22 at Queens on Dec. 21, also finished with nine rebounds, three assists and three steals as she became the first Pioneer to reach 30 points since Shynese Whitener scored 30 against Lenoir-Rhyne on Dec. 16, 2015.
Long shot 9-for-18 from the field and 6-for-11 at the foul line to break her previous Tusculum career high of 24 points set Dec. 18 against Virginia-Wise. Long also had a season-high eight rebounds along with five assists and three steals for the Pioneers, who led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter and held a six-point lead with less than 20 seconds left in regulation before seeing the Bears rally.
Ashley Woodroffe led the Bears with a career-high 27 points and Karlie Bearden added 16 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Nakia Hooks contributed 16 points and seven rebounds for the Bears, who lost leading scorer Madeline Hardy to a leg injury just over six minutes into the first quarter.
Tusculum led 64-63 with just over a minute left in regulation but stretched the lead to five by hitting 5-for-6 at the free-throw line, including two from Johnson with 27.0 seconds left to give the Pioneers a 69-64 lead. After a turnover, Long hit a free throw with 22.2 seconds to go to extend the Tusculum lead to 70-64.
A basket by Hooks with 15.2 seconds left cut the margin to 70-66, and Hooks added two free throws with 8.5 seconds to go to bring the Bears within 70-68. Jalia Arnwine made a free throw with 7.6 seconds to go to extend the Pioneers' lead to 71-68, and the Bears chose to go for a quick layup by Woodroffe with 1.8 seconds to play to cut the lead to 71-70. On the inbounds play, McClung came up with a steal and was fouled with 0.4 left. She missed the first foul shot, but hit the second to tie the game at 71-71 and force overtime.
In the first overtime period, the Bears missed on all three of their field goal attempts but went 5-for-6 from the foul line as a team. Johnson gave Tusculum a 74-71 lead on a three-pointer with 3:34 left, but Bearden hit two free throws with 3:11 left and Woodroffe added a pair with 1:55 to go to give Lenoir-Rhyne its first lead since halftime at 75-74. Johnson gave Tusculum a 76-75 lead on a short jumper with 52.7 left in the overtime period, but a free throw from Hooks tied the game at 76-76 with 28.7 seconds to go. A shot for the win by the Pioneers in the final seconds was off the mark and Tusculum headed to double overtime for the first time since Jan. 25, 2017 at home against Brevard.
Woodroffe scored on the first possession of the second overtime to give the Bears a 78-76 lead, but it would be the last lead for Lenoir-Rhyne as Johnson tied it on the next possession, and Long converted back-to-back buckets, the latter part of a three-point play to give the Pioneers an 83-78 lead with 2:24 left. Tusculum's lead grew to 85-78 on a foul shot by Elle Hutchinson with 29.0 seconds to play, and the teams traded off free throws until McClung scored with just over two seconds left to set the final score and improve the Pioneers to 6-1 on the road in conference games.
Neither team led by more than two points in the first quarter until a three-pointer from Johnson gave Tusculum a 16-13 lead with 3:30 left in the period. Just prior to that basket, Hardy, who averages a team-high 15.3 points per game for the Bears, was knocked out of a game with an injury after scoring two points. A basket by Sutton gave Tusculum an 18-15 lead with 2:28 to go in the quarter, but the Pioneers missed their final three shot attempts and a putback by Kiara Moore gave the Bears a 20-18 lead after one quarter.
Tusculum missed its first six shots of the second quarter as Lenoir-Rhyne built a 27-21 lead on a Moore layup with 6:09 left in the half. A bucket by Johnson with 6:01 left ended the drought, but the Bears would take their largest lead at 30-23 on a three-pointer by Kennedy Weigt with 3:54 to go in the half. Tusculum responded with consecutive three-pointers by Kirsten Click and Sutton, and capped an 8-0 run on a Johnson layup to go up 31-30 with 1:56 left in the half. The Bears regained the lead 34-33 in the final minute on a Moore layup, and carried the one-point advantage into halftime.
Johnson led the Pioneers with 12 points in the first half on 5-for-8 shooting, with Tusculum shooting 42.9 percent (12-for-28) from the field as a team and 6-for-15 from three-point range. Sutton added eight points, three rebounds and three assists in the first half while knocking down both of her three-point attempts. Lenoir-Rhyne shot 51.9 percent (14-for-27) from the field in the first half, led by 12 points from Woodroffe and eight from Moore, along with a game-high five rebounds.
Tusculum opened the third quarter with 13 straight points, as back-to-back baskets from Long were followed by a three-pointer from Johnson and a Sutton layup for a 42-34 Pioneer lead. Two more baskets by Johnson and Long stretched the Tusculum lead to 46-34 with 6:23 left in the third quarter, as the Bears went 0-for-7 from the field before a layup by Hooks cut the Pioneer lead to 50-37 with 3:31 left in the quarter. Two foul shots from Hutchinson gave the Pioneers a 52-37 lead, but the Bears closed the quarter on an 11-2 run to pull within 54-48 after three periods.
A Hooks layup brought the Bears within 54-50 on their first possession of the fourth quarter, but Tusculum was able to keep it a two-possession game until a free throw from Bearden brought the Bears within 63-60 with 5:06 remaining. Meanwhile, Tusculum scored its final field goal of the quarter on a Long layup with 6:41 left, missing their last five shot attempts but going 10-for-14 at the foul line in the quarter.
Tusculum finished the game at 40.3 percent (29-for-72) from the field and 9-for-28 (32.1 percent) from three-point range, and hit 21-for-31 (67.7 percent) from the foul line. Lenoir-Rhyne shot 43.9 percent (29-for-66) from the floor and 6-for-26 from beyond the arc, and nearly matched Tusculum at the foul line by going 20-for-30.
Sutton, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, posted her fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Click, who had played just 54 minutes all season entering the game, had five points in 25 minutes off the bench and was on the court throughout the overtime periods for the Pioneers. Brianna Dixon played a season-high 44 minutes and attempted just one shot, but had a game-high five steals along with seven rebounds.
For Lenoir-Rhyne, Moore was 4-for-5 from the field and had eight points along with eight rebounds. Weigt was just 2-for-14 shooting in the game, all from three-point range, but dished out a game-high seven assists for the Bears in 46 minutes of playing time.
Tusculum finished the game with a 47-42 rebounding edge over Lenoir-Rhyne, and scored 15 points off 21 Bears turnovers. Lenoir-Rhyne's bench outscored Tusculum's by a commanding 41-10 margin thanks to the efforts of Bearden and Hooks, in a game that had nine ties and 15 lead changes.
The Pioneers will return home to face Newberry on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Pioneer Arena. Tusculum beat Newberry 61-47 on the road on Dec. 7, but are facing a Wolves team that upset first-place Catawba 69-56 Wednesday night.