GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Peyton Woods poured in a career-high 31 points to lead the Tusculum men's basketball team to a 97-71 South Atlantic Conference victory over Mars Hill Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.
The Pioneers (6-16, 4-11 SAC) snap a five-game losing streak while sweeping the season series over the Lions (3-19, 1-14 SAC). TC has won five straight over their cross-mountain rivals and seventh of the last eight encounters.
Woods tied a Tusculum single-game record by going a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line. His free throw performance is the fifth-best amongst most free throws in a game without a miss. He connected on four 3-pointers while also matching a career-best with his six rebounds. His 31-point performance surpasses the 28 markers he had against Lee University earlier this year. He becomes the first TC player to score over 30 points since Kendall Patterson posted 31 against Mars Hill at home last season.
Tusculum rookie Dashaunte Smith added a season-high 17 points of the bench going 7-of-10 from the field while hauling in eight rebounds. Caleb Hodnett posted 13 points, six rebounds and went 3-of-4 from three-point land. Donovan Donaldson tallied nine points, while Hunter Parrish contributed six points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. TC junior Jackie Davis tallied six points and dished out a game-high six assists. Junior Zach Hartle was held to three points, but led all players with a career-high 13 rebounds and equaled a career-best with four assists.
The Lions were paced by Bennett Wilson's 19-point effort and he also had four assists, two blocked shots and three steals. Luke Van-Rijn finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Justen Hartfield added 10 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
Tusculum came out sluggish as the Lions took a 9-2 lead as the Pioneers missed their first six shots and went 1-of-10 in the opening four minutes.
TC responded with a 10-0 run to spark an 18-2 spurt as the Pioneers led 20-11 with 11:02 remaining in the half. During the run, Woods scored a dozen of his first half 16 markers. Tusculum pushed the lead out to as many as 19 points (45-26) in the opening period before taking a 49-34 lead into the locker room.
Mars Hill cut the deficit to a dozen when Van-Rijn canned a triple to start the half. The Pioneers answered with triples from Donaldson and Woods and a layup from Hodnett as Tusculum led 57-37 with 17:25 remaining in the game.
Tusculum led by 24 at 67-43 following a layup from Elon Smallwood with 14:52 left. The Lions scored eight straight on treys from Cody Hylton and Van-Rijn to trail 67-51 at the 12:53 mark. But TC got seven straight points from Woods to extend the lead to 74-52 with 11:46 remaining.
With TC leading 76-54 with just under 10 minutes left, the Lions charged again, going on a 9-2 run capped off by a Austin Gilyard three-point play as the Tusculum lead was cut to 78-63 with 8:13 remaining.
Smith converted a three-point play for the Pioneers, but Hylton countered with a trifecta as TC led 81-66 with 7:17 to go.
But the Pioneers put the game away using a 16-1 run over the next six minutes to take its largest lead of the night at 97-67 before settling for the 26-point victory, TC's largest of the season.
Tusculum out-rebounded Mars Hill 53-43, establishing a season-high for rebounds, which are tied for the eighth most in program history.
TC also forced 22 turnovers, converting those MHU miscues into 31 points. TC finished the game shooting 40.5 percent and went 17-of-20 from the free throw line for 85 percent. TC connected on a dozen three-pointers on 47 attempts which are the second-most ever taken school history. Tusculum attempted 84 field goals on the evening which are tied for third-most in school history and the most taken by a TC team in the NCAA Division II era of the program.
Tusculum will be on the road this Saturday for a 4 p.m. contest at Coker. The Cobras won this year's first meeting 100-97 in overtime at Pioneer Arena.