GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Jasmine Williams scored a career-high 19 points as Tusculum University rolled to a 91-47 win over Mars Hill University in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Wednesday evening at Pioneer Arena.
Jalia Arnwine added 17 points in 14 minutes and Mya Belton scored 11 points and blocked a career-best four shots for the Pioneers (18-5, 13-4 SAC), who won their third straight game and moved within one game of SAC-leading Anderson heading into Saturday's showdown on the road with the Trojans.
Tusculum's bench combined for 58 points in the game, with Williams shooting 8-for-13 from the field and drilling three three-pointers to surpass her previous career high of 18 set against Newberry on Feb. 2, 2019. Williams also had eight rebounds and two blocked shots in a season-high 28 minutes of playing time.
In addition to her 11 points, Belton had four rebounds and set career highs with four assists and four blocked shots in 24 minutes off the bench. Brianna Dixon had eight points and a season-high 10 rebounds to lead the Pioneers, with Aliyah Miller and Elle Hutchinson contributing nine points each off the bench. Miller also grabbed seven rebounds and had three assists, while Hutchinson tied her career high with four steals.
De'Ja Marshall led the Lions (2-21, 0-17 SAC) with nine points and eight rebounds, but Mars Hill shot 31.7 percent (19-for-60) from the field and committed 24 turnovers in losing their 39th consecutive conference game. Mars Hill did outrebound Tusculum by a 46-41 margin.
Arnwine scored 10 points in the opening quarter as the Pioneers led 29-12 after one period and 48-25 at halftime. Tusculum outscored Mars Hill 24-5 in the third quarter as the Lions shot just 2-for-17 in the period, and the Pioneers led by as many as 48 points in the fourth quarter. Tusculum committed a season-low seven turnovers while scoring 34 points off the 24 Mars Hill turnovers.
With the win, the Pioneers remain tied for third place in the SAC standings with Carson-Newman at 13-4, and trail SAC co-leaders Anderson and Catawba by one game with five games left in the regular season.
Arnwine opened the game with back-to-back three-pointers to help the Pioneers to an 11-2 lead after 2 1/2 minutes. Tusculum built its lead to 22-8 on a free throw by Belton with 3:29 to go in the opening quarter, and three-pointers from Belton and Hutchinson pushed the Pioneers ahead 29-12 after one quarter as Tusculum shot 66.7 percent (10-for-15) and went 4-for-7 from three-point range in the period.
Consecutive three-pointers from Williams and Arnwine gave Tusculum its largest lead of the first half at 42-16 with 6:20 to go in the second quarter. Tusculum would go scoreless for nearly four minutes, missing 10 straight shots before a putback from Dixon gave the Pioneers a 44-22 lead with 2:21 left in the half. Williams capped the scoring for Tusculum with a putback in the final minute as the Pioneers led 48-25 at intermission.
Arnwine led the Pioneers with 13 points in nine minutes in the opening half, while Williams had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench. Tusculum, which shot 34.8 percent (8-for-23) in the second quarter, ended the first half at 47.4 percent (18-for-38) from the field and 7-for-19 from beyond the arc. Marshall and Alexis Pardue shared the team lead with six points and three rebounds apiece in the first half for the Lions, who shot 34.4 percent (11-for-32) and committed 12 turnovers which led to 19 Tusculum points.
In the third quarter, three-pointers from Miller and Hutchinson gave the Pioneers a 63-30 lead with 4:51 remaining in the period. Both teams would then go scoreless for 3 1/2 minutes until back-to-back layups from Williams and a three-pointer from Belton extended the Tusculum lead to 72-30 after three quarters. Mars Hill went scoreless for just over five minutes to end the quarter, going 0-for-8 from the field with three turnovers.
Tusculum's largest lead of the game came at 85-37 after a foul shot from Hutchinson with 4:40 to go. A three-pointer from Williams with 1:08 left was the only field goal for the Pioneers in the final 5:13 of the game, as Tusculum went 4-for-6 at the foul line over that span. The Lions missed their first nine three-point attempts until Marshall connected with 1:59 left, with Mars Hill ending the game 1-for-11 from long range.
None of Tusculum's starters played more than 15 minutes in the game, and the four starters excluding Arnwine combined for 16 points. Mia Long had a season-low three points for the Pioneers but added a game-high five assists and two steals in 13 minutes of action.
The Pioneers will visit Anderson on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Abney Athletic Center. Tusculum is 1-11 all-time at Anderson, with eight consecutive losses since their lone win by a 72-71 score on Jan. 18, 2012. The Trojans, ranked 17th in this week's WBCA Division II Top 25, beat the Pioneers 56-47 in Greeneville on Jan. 4.