GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Donovan Donaldson poured in a career-high 26 points as the Tusculum men's basketball team rallied from an 11-point second half deficit to defeat Newberry 99-87 Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena.
The Pioneers (5-11, 3-6 South Atlantic Conference) scored 61 points in the second period while shooting a blistering 19-of-27 from floor for 70.4 percent in the final 20 minutes.
The win was TC's first victory at home this season and the first win at Pioneer Arena for first-year head coach Nick Pasqua. TC also snapped a three-game losing streak to the Wolves (8-8, 3-6 SAC) and established a season-best in points (99).
Saturday's game pitted two of the top-eight 3-point shooting teams in the country in Newberry (3rd) and Tusculum (8th). The two teams connected on 29 combined triples in the game with the Wolves finishing with 15 treys, while the Pioneers ended with 14 trifectas, including 9-of-13 shooting (69.2%) from beyond the arc in the second half.
Donaldson went 7-of-10 from the floor and was a perfect 5-of-5 from three-point land, matching the perfect TC record performance of Jimmy (5-of-5) against Bellarmine in 2007. Donaldson, who scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half, went 7-of-7 at the free throw line.
Senior Ronnie Baylark added 17 points and five assists off the bench, while Zach Hartle finished with 13 points going 4-of-6 from the field and 3-of-4 from downtown. He also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots. Brandon Mitchell totaled 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds as he went 4-of-5 from the floor. Peyton Woods tallied nine points, while Dustin Day contributed eight markers in the victory.
Rob Valentine led the Wolves with his 20 points and went 6-of-9 from three-point territory. DJ Copeland added 16 points going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, while James Stepp finished with 13 points and a team-high six rebounds in the loss.
Tusculum finished the game shooting a season-high 59.3 percent from the field, including 14-of-26 (53.8%) from three-point land, which is also season-best. TC out-rebounded the Wolves by a 41-35 margin including 26-15 in the second half.
The game went back-and-forth as the contest included 14 lead changes and 10 ties. Tusculum's biggest lead in the first half was five points while Newberry owned a six-point advantage in the opening 20 minutes. The lead changed hands seven times in the first period including two times in the last 3.1 seconds. Hunter Parrish converted a pair of free throws to give TC a 38-37 lead. But Valentine got off a 30-footer from top of the key at the buzzer as the Wolves carried a 40-38 lead into the locker room.
Donaldson buried a trey to open the second half but Newberry erupted for seven straight points including buckets from Max Miller and Xavier Hill and a Valentine trey as the Wolves led 47-41 with 18:14 remaining. Newberry extended the lead to double figures thanks to two 3-pointers from Stepp and a trey from Nick Dietrich as the Wolves took their largest lead of the afternoon at 56-45 with 16 minutes to go.
Tusculum answered with seven straight points with a Baylark jumper, a Hartle triple and a steal and dunk from Malik Tyree as TC trailed 56-52 with 15:18 remaining.
The two teams exchanged treys at a thrilling rate and Newberry pushed its advantage to 68-60 following a Miller free throw as the Wolves led 68-60 with 11:33 left on the clock.
The Pioneers answered with a 13-1 run sparked by nine points from Donaldson as he connected on two triples and converted a three-point play to give TC the lead at 73-69 with 8:48 to go.
The Wolves responded and retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Hill as Newberry went up 76-75 with 6:43 remaining.
The lead exchanged hands two more times as Stepp made two free throws for a 78-77 lead with 5:50 remaining.
Baylark made one of two free throws for Tusculum to tie the game for the 10th time at 78-78 with 5:36 left.
Hartle connected on a three-pointer with five minutes remaining and Baylark converted a three-point play to give TC an 84-78 lead with 4:21 left on the scoreboard.
Newberry's Marshall Lange made a layup and Hill buried two more free throws to trim the deficit to 84-82 with 3:03 to go.
Tusculum put the game out of reach scoring nine straight points in a span of 1:39 as Donaldson scored five points on two free throws and a trey, while Hartle followed with a pair of free throws of his own. Baylark made a key layup with 1:24 on the clock to give TC a 93-82 lead.
Valentine made his sixth trey of the game to cut the deficit to single digits at 93-85 with 1:18 remaining. But the Pioneers got a layup from Dashaunte Smith and the Pioneers went 4-for-4 at the foul line in the final 48 seconds as Tusculum won by a dozen.
Both teams shot well from the free throw line as TC went 21-of-23 for 91.3 percent including nine in a row to end the game. Newberry shot 82.4 percent from the stripe going 14-of-42
The Wolves forced 22 Tusculum turnovers on 16 steals, converting those miscues into 18 points
The Pioneers will close out their three-game home-stand on Wednesday when they host Anderson for an 8 p.m. contest.