GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Mia Long scored a game-high 20 points, including the 1,000th of her career, as Tusculum University held Coker University scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the fourth quarter to come away with a 75-66 victory in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena on Senior Day.
Long reached the milestone on a foul shot with 31.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter as the Pioneers (20-6, 15-5 SAC) clinched a top-four finish in the SAC standings and assured themselves of a home game in the SAC Championship quarterfinal round on Wednesday, March 4.
The win, Tusculum's ninth in a row over Coker, also gave the Pioneers back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since four in a row from 2007-08 through 2010-11. The Pioneers, who began the week seventh in the NCAA Division II Southeast Region rankings, remain tied for third place in the SAC standings with Carson-Newman at 15-5 with two regular-season games remaining. Tusculum has the tiebreaker over Carson-Newman through a sweep of the season series.
Long went 10-for-14 from the foul line for the Pioneers, who were 15-for-18 as a team in the fourth quarter and 21-for-28 from the game. She became the 19th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point milestone, and gave Tusculum three players over 1,000 points in the same season for the first time in school history. Kasey Johnson hit the mark against Catawba on Nov. 30 and Sydney Wilson did so at Carson-Newman on Jan. 15.
Maddie Sutton recorded her third straight double-double with 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, and Jalia Arnwine scored 17 points as the Pioneers shot 37.7 percent (23-for-61) from the field but forced the Cobras into 23 turnovers, including seven in the decisive fourth quarter.
Four players reached double figures for the Cobras (9-15, 6-14 SAC), led by 14 points from Hayley Kropp and 12 points and 12 rebounds from Erin Houser. Coker shot 41.4 percent (24-for-58) from the field but missed six straight shots and turned the ball over seven times during a scoring drought that began after Houser hit two free throws with 8:23 left for a 56-55 Coker lead, and lasted until Shay Jackson hit a putback with 33 seconds to go after Tusculum had run off 12 straight points to build a 67-56 lead.
Sutton, who entered the game averaging a double-double (10.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg) over her last seven contests, earned her eighth double-double in 20 conference games by shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 3-for-5 from the foul line. Arnwine reached double figures for the third time in four games by hitting four three-pointers in six attempts as Tusculum was 8-for-23 as a team from beyond the arc.
Coker scored the first two points of the game on a layup by Saquita Joyner, but Tusculum responded with 10 in a row to go up 10-2 on a layup by Sutton with 6:35 left in the first quarter. The Pioneers would stretch their lead to 19-7 on a three-pointer by Brianna Dixon with 3:02 to go in the quarter, and carried a 22-13 lead into the second quarter despite turning the ball over on their final three possessions of the period.
The Cobras whittled the deficit to 23-19 on a three-pointer by Kropp with 8:22 left in the second quarter, but baskets by Sutton and Long and a three-pointer from Aliyah Miller put the Pioneers ahead 30-19 with 5:55 to go in the half. Coker continued to chip away at the deficit, pulling with 30-26 on a basket by Janell Horton with 3:51 left and 33-31 on a four-point play from Raya Coley with 1:19 to go. Dixon's second three of the period sent the Pioneers to the locker room holding a 36-31 lead.
Long led the Pioneers with seven points in the first half while Sutton, Arnwine, Dixon and Mya Belton each scored six points. As a team, Tusculum shot 43.3 percent (13-for-30) from the field and 6-for-16 from long range, while turning the ball over nine times. Coker was paced by eight points and five rebounds from Houser, as the Cobras shot 35.5 percent (11-for-31) from the floor and 2-for-8 from beyond the arc.
The Tusculum lead grew back to double digits at 43-33 on a layup by Long with 8:16 left in the quarter. Coker trailed 45-35 with 7:35 to go, but went on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 47 on a bucket by Jalah Horton with 2:38 to play. The game would again be tied at 52-52, but Long hit two foul shots in the final 30 seconds to give Tusculum a 54-52 lead heading to the fourth.
Houser gave the Cobras their first lead since the opening minute with two free throws with 8:23 left, but a basket by Dixon and a layup by Long put Tusculum back on top 59-56 with 6:42 to play. Both teams would go scoreless for the next 3 1/2 minutes before a layup by Arnwine pushed the Pioneers in front 61-56 with 3:14 to go. That would be the final field goal of the game for the Pioneers, who ended the contest by going 14-for-16 at the foul line in the final 2:21, including 8-for-8 in the last 35 seconds as Long, Marta Rodrigues, Arnwine and Miller each hit a pair.
Dixon led the Pioneers with eight points and three rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench, with six points from Belton and five from Miller along with two by Rodrigues. Johnson was held to just two points in 29 minutes, but pulled seven rebounds for the Pioneers.
Coker finished with a 43-33 advantage in rebounding, with Jackson adding four points, nine boards and a game-high six assists in 23 minutes off the Cobra bench. Coker had 13 offensive rebounds and converted them into 18 second-chance points, but Tusculum had 27 points off Coker's 23 turnovers.
Joining Cropp and Houser in double figures for the Cobras were Emily Davis with 12 in 31 minutes off the bench, and 10 from Janell Horton as each shot 4-for-9 from the field.
Tusculum will play its final two regular season games on the road, starting Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters (10-14, 9-11 SAC) are tied for sixth place in the conference with Wingate and will look to avenge a 73-59 loss to the Pioneers on the road on Jan. 22.