GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Jalia Arnwine hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 25.4 seconds left as Tusculum University rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to defeat Carson-Newman University 79-74 in a key South Atlantic Conference women's basketball game Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.
Mia Long finished with 19 points and six steals and Maddie Sutton added 12 points and a career-high 17 rebounds for the Pioneers (19-6, 14-5 SAC), who moved into a tie for third place in the conference standings with the Eagles (18-7, 14-5 SAC) with three games left in the regular season. Tusculum, ranked seventh in the initial NCAA Southeast Region rankings released earlier in the day, owns the tiebreaker over Carson-Newman by virtue of a sweep of the season series, their first over the Eagles since the 2012-13 season. The victory also snapped a six-game home losing streak by the Pioneers to the Eagles, who were ranked fifth in the region entering the game.
Braelyn Wykle led the Eagles with a game-high 20 points, but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter as Carson-Newman let a double-digit lead slip away to Tusculum for the second time this season. Harli Smith added 14 points and five rebounds and Kayla Marosites was limited to 10 points and nine rebounds in 38 minutes of action in a game that included eight ties and 13 lead changes.
The Pioneers shot 34.3 percent from the field (23-for-67), but went 23-for-29 (79.3 percent) from the foul line including 11-for-12 during the decisive fourth quarter. The Eagles shot 62.5 percent (20-for-32) in the second half and 47.5 percent (28-for-59) for the game, but committed 22 turnovers and made just seven three-pointers after entering the game averaging a conference-best 11.3 per game.
Sutton's double-double was her seventh of the season, with her 17 rebounds shattering her previous career best of 13 set on four occasions. Long was 7-for-12 from the field and pulled within 19 points of becoming the 19th player in program history to score 1,000 career points.
In all, Tusculum put five players in double figures as Arnwine had 12 points, including three from three-point range, Kasey Johnson had 11 points and five rebounds and Aliyah Miller scored nine of her 11 points in the fourth quarter for the Pioneers, who converted the 22 Carson-Newman turnovers into 24 points. The 13-point comeback for the Pioneers was the second-biggest of the season behind a rally from a 14-point deficit for an 89-85 win over UVa-Wise on Dec. 18, and the fourth from a double-digit deficit this season by the Pioneers.
Tusculum trailed 57-48 following two free throws from Carson-Newman's Qua Hines with 8:46 left, but cut the deficit to 59-56 on a three-point play by Long with 7:19 remaining. After a layup by Smith gave the Eagles a 61-56 lead, Kirsten Click drilled a three-pointer and Miller followed with a traditional three-point play to give the Pioneers a 62-61 lead with 5:32 remaining.
Back-to-back baskets by Smith and Tori Griffin put Carson-Newman back on top 65-62 with 4:51 remaining, but Miller tied the game at 67 as she drained a there with 2:58 to go. Sutton gave Tusculum a 69-67 lead with two foul shots with 2:11 left, but Marosites equaled the score on a layup with 1:49 remaining.
Sutton pushed the Pioneers back ahead 71-69 on a layup with 1:25 to go, before Kelci Marosites hit her only field goal of the game, a three-pointer with 47.3 to go to give Carson-Newman its final lead at 72-71. Arnwine then gave Tusculum the lead for good on a three-pointer with 25.4 seconds left, and Johnson added two foul shots with 16.2 seconds left for a 76-72 Tusculum lead. Smith answered at the other end for the Eagles with 10.7 seconds to go, but Arnwine hit a pair from the line and Sutton added one in the final moments to clinch the win.
Tusculum led by as many as five points in the first quarter and held a 16-15 lead after one despite shooting 31.3 percent (5-for-16) from the field. The Pioneers did not score a field goal for the first five minutes of the second quarter until Johnson hit a putback for a 19-18 Tusculum lead. Both teams struggled from the floor in the second period, with Carson-Newman hitting 2-for-15 and Tusculum 3-for-18 in the quarter.
The Pioneers led 25-23 at halftime behind seven points and six steals from Long and six points from Mya Belton off the bench. The Pioneers shot just 23.5 percent (8-for-34) from the field while the Eagles were 29.6 percent (8-for-27) with Griffin and Addison Byrd sharing the team lead with six points apiece.
Tusculum's halftime lead lasted but a few seconds of the third quarter, as Carson-Newman hit its first eight shots from the field and went on a 14-0 run over the first 1:53 of the period to take a 37-25 lead on a three-pointer by Hines. Wykle sizzled for the Eagles in the third, scoring 16 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field and 5-for-5 at the foul line as Carson-Newman took its biggest lead at 41-28 on a Kayla Marosites fast-break hoop with 7:13 to go in the quarter.
Trailing by 13, Tusculum went on a 10-0 run as Long scored seven points during the surge, including a layup with 4:44 left to bring Tusculum within 41-38. However, Wykle scored the next seven points as the Eagles went up 48-38 with 3:48 left in the third, and took a 53-48 lead into the fourth.
Griffin had 10 points off the bench for the Eagles, whose reserves outscored the Pioneer subs by a 23-19 margin. Carson-Newman had a 40-26 edge in points in the paint, but Tusculum led 18-7 in second-chance points thanks to 16 offensive rebounds.
The Pioneers will host Coker on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Pioneer Arena in their final home game of the regular season. Tusculum will honor members of its senior class prior to the game, while also participating in the annual "Play4Kay" game for breast cancer awareness. The Pioneers beat the Cobras (9-14, 6-13 SAC) by a 75-63 score in the first meeting of the season on Jan. 11.