JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. --- Zach Hartle hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 22 seconds left as Tusculum edged Columbus State 86-85 in non-conference men's basketball action Saturday evening at Holt Fieldhouse.
Hartle's three-pointer was his sixth of the game and the 18th for the Pioneers (2-4), who went 18-for-33 from three-point range in the game (54.5 percent) including 10-for-17 in the second half alone. He finished with a team-high 18 points while Ronnie Baylark and Donovan Donaldson added 15 points apiece for Tusculum.
JaCori Payne led the Cougars (0-2) with a game-high 26 points, but Columbus State shot just 43.5 percent (27-for-62) from the field in the game. The Cougars outrebounded the Pioneers 39-30, with 18 offensive rebounds that led to 18 second-chance points.
The second half of the game featured five ties and 13 lead changes, including three in the final two minutes. After the Pioneers' Ronnie Baylark connected on a jumper to give Tusculum an 81-79 lead with 2:08 to go, a three-pointer from the Cougars' Jalen Thomas put Columbus State back on top 82-81 with 1:48 to go.
After a bad pass by the Pioneers, the Cougars' John Lambert hit one of two free throws to extend the Columbus State lead to 83-81 with 1:02 remaining. The Pioneers' Brandon Mitchell missed two foul shots with 46 seconds left, but alertly grabbed the second miss to keep possession. Tusculum got a third chance after Hartle grabbed the rebound on his blocked three-point attempt, and after a timeout he canned the go-ahead shot with 22 seconds to go.
Payne missed a tough shot in traffic with 10 seconds left and Tusculum's Jackie Davis was tied up on the rebound to give the Pioneers possession on the arrow. Peyton Woods made two foul shots with 7.4 seconds left for an 86-83 lead, and Columbus State's Marcus Dixon laid in the rebound of a missed three-pointer from Lambert as time expired to leave the Cougars one point short.
Columbus State took an early 10-7 lead following a three-pointer by Payne, but Tusculum went on a 7-0 run to go ahead 14-10 on a dunk by Mitchell with 15:12 left in the first half. A three-point play from Payne cut the Tusculum lead to one, but the Pioneers answered with 10 straight points, including back-to-back three-pointers from Baylark and Woods, to go ahead 24-13 with 11:51 to play in the half.
A bucket from Davis left the Pioneers on top 26-17 with 9:54 left in the half, but the Cougars clawed back with 10 straight points to regain the lead at 27-26 on a three-pointer by Payne with 7:05 to play in the half.
Columbus State led 43-38 at halftime as Payne led all players with 13 points and Rudy Winters added nine for the Cougars. Tusculum, which shot 8-for-16 from three-point range in the half, received eight points from Donaldson and six each from Woods and Hartle in the first half.
The Cougars led by as many as seven points on three occasions in the second half, the final time at 48-41 following a three-pointer from Payne with 16:45 to go. Tusculum was able to chip away at the deficit, and tied the game at 54-54 on a layup by Davis with 13:01 left. Columbus State went back up by four points at 76-72 on a Payne trey with 6:29 to go, but a three-pointer from Hartle and a jumper by Donaldson helped Tusculum regain the lead at 77-76 with 5:04 to play.
A Dixon bucket put Columbus State on top 79-77 with 4:02 left, but the Pioneers tied it on a layup by Donaldson with 2:57 to go and took the lead back at 81-79 on a basket by Baylark with 2:08 left, setting up the finish.
Davis finished with seven points, four rebounds and 10 assists for the Pioneers, while Baylark went 3-for-4 from three-point range and 4-for-4 at the line for his 15 points in 22 minutes off the bench. Woods was 3-for-10 overall and 2-for-8 from beyond the arc to finish with 10 points for the Pioneers, who received six points off the bench from Zailan Peeler and five points and four rebounds in 13 minutes by Caleb Hodnett.
Five players finished in double figures for Columbus State, as Dixon had 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, Thomas scored 12 points and Winters and Lambert tallied 11 points apiece. Lambert had a team-high six assists for the Cougars, while Cam Paulding grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Tusculum finished the game with 17 turnovers, leading to 18 points for Columbus State, while the Pioneers scored 11 points off 11 Cougar miscues. Columbus State shot 22-for-31 from the free-throw line in the game, while Tusculum was 8-for-14 at the stripe.
The Pioneers will open their South Atlantic Conference schedule on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. as nationally-ranked Lincoln Memorial will visit Pioneer Arena.