GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum Pioneers overcame a sluggish first half and a 13-point second half deficit to defeat visiting Newberry 91-81 in overtime Monday afternoon at Pioneer Arena in South Atlantic Conference men's basketball action.
Tusculum (9-8, 5-4 SAC) records its fifth consecutive win and posts back-to-back overtime victories for the first time in recorded school history. TU also won in overtime at Wingate on Saturday, 80-77. Newberry suffers its fifth straight loss as the Wolves (5-11, 1-8 SAC) put forth a gutty effort.
The 13-point deficit is tied for the fifth largest comeback win in program history. Tusculum overcame a 13-point hole last month at Barton en route to a 91-87 victory.
Tusculum junior Tariq Jenkins led the Pioneers with a season-high 22 points as he went 5-of-8 from the floor and 12-of-17 at the free throw line. Donovan Donaldson added 21 points including five markers in overtime, while junior Dillon Smith and freshman Trenton Gibson each tallied 14 points. Sophomore Brandon Dickson added 13 points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot to round out the scoring for the Pioneers.
Newberry junior Marshall Lange led the Wolves with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Luke Gibson accounted for 18 points and four assists. Nilous Hodge, Jr. tallied 14 points including four 3-pointers, while Josiah Coatie scored a dozen on his four trifectas. Marquis Collins was menace on the glass, grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with his seven points.
It was a defensive struggle at first as the Pioneers scored the first five points of the game before Newberry answered with six in a row to lead 6-5 with 13:24 remaining in the opening half. A dunk by junior Caleb Hodnett sparked an 8-1 run for the Pioneers as TU led 14-7 at the 11:10 mark of the half. Lange stopped the run with a three-pointer but a Jenkins layup followed by a Gibson bucket extended the TU lead to 18-10 with under 10 minutes to go.
The Wolves caught fire and closed out the half with a 27-9 run as the visitors took a 37-27 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, both teams came out sluggish as the Pioneers were able to cut the deficit to 30-37 with 15:38 remaining in regulation. But back-to-back three-pointers from Coatie pushed the Newberry lead to 13 at 43-30 with 14:37 left.
With the Wolves ahead 52-39 at the 11:15 mark, Tusculum scored 13 unanswered points including two triples by Smith as Tusculum tied the game at 52-52 with 7:04 remaining. Newberry answered with a 10-4 spurt including eight points from Hodge during the run as the Wolves led 62-56 with 5:13 left on the scoreboard.
Tusculum cut the deficit to three following a Smith trifecta, but Lange scored the Wolves next six points as Newberry led 68-61 with 3:38 on the clock.
The Pioneers got a jumper from Gibson and three-pointer from Donaldson to trim the deficit to two (68-66) with 2:56 remaining. Luke Gibson of Newberry connect on a pair of free throws for a 70-66 lead. But Jenkins made two free throws to trim the deficit to two and after a steal by Donaldson, Mitchell tied the game at 70-70 with a jumper in the lane with 1:49 remaining.
Newberry stepped out of bounds on the ensuing possession and Pioneers capitalized as Smith made a running jumper to give TU its first lead of the half at 72-70 with 1:16 left. But quickly down the floor came Newberry as Luke Gibson buried a three pointer from the right wing as Newberry led 73-72.
With 52.1 seconds left, Donaldson was fouled while shooting a three-pointer. He missed his first two free throw tries, but made the third to tie the game at 73-73.
Newberry came down the floor and Lange kept the hot hand as he hit a jumper in the lane with 40 seconds left for a 75-73 lead for the Wolves. The Pioneers came down the floor and freshman Adrian Cohen hit the biggest bucket of his young TU career with his driving layup to tie the game at 75-75 with 15 seconds remaining.
The Wolves' Gibson got off a three-point try with three seconds left, but the rebound bounced over the basket giving the Pioneers the ball with 1.2 seconds left. Smith got off a desperation heave from beyond midcourt as the Pioneers went into overtime for the second time in 48 hours.
Tusculum carried the momentum into the overtime period scoring the first six points and didn't allow the Wolves to get a shot off until 90 seconds into the extra period. Leading 81-75, Coatie knocked down his fourth 3-pointer of the game to cut the TU lead in half at 81-78 with 2:42 left. But Donaldson three-pointer and a Gibson basket extended the Tusculum lead and wouldn't be threatened from there.
Tusculum, who shot 35 percent in the first half, shot a blistering 15-of-25 in the second period (60%) and went 6-of-12 from the floor in the five-minute overtime. Newberry finished the game shooting 37 percent, including just 1-of-7 in overtime.
Newberry edged the Pioneers on the boards by a 45-43 margin, including 17-of-15 on the offensive glass. TU forced 20 turnovers while committing only nine miscues including just three in the second half and none in overtime. The Pioneers outscored Newberry 40-20 in the paint and held a 29-14 advantage in bench scoring.
Tusculum's five-game winning streak is its first since the 2008-09 campaign. It is the second longest active winning streak in the conference with only SAC leader Queens winning its last 12 in a row.
The Pioneers will travel to longtime in-state foe Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday for its third game in five days. Tip-off from Tex Turner Arena is slated for 8 p.m.