JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. --- Mika Wester had game highs of 21 points and eight rebounds as Carson-Newman University built a 16-point lead in the first quarter and held off Tusculum College 76-66 in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Wednesday night at Holt Fieldhouse.
Briana Smith added 15 points and Kailyn Brooks tallied 11 points, seven assists and five steals for the Eagles (8-5, 5-2 SAC), who led 19-3 midway through the first quarter only to see the Pioneers cut the deficit to three points late in the second quarter. After again trailing by 16 points late in the fourth quarter, Tusculum pulled within eight in the final minute but was unable to get any closer.
Maelyn Head led the Pioneers (2-9, 1-6 SAC) with 14 points and five rebounds, while Callie Patterson posted a season-high with 13 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Kasey Johnson and Morgan Depew each reached double figures as well with 11 points apiece, with Johnson sharing the team high with six rebounds before fouling out after 21 minutes of playing time.
The Eagles shot 12-for-19 (63.2 percent) in the first quarter behind nine points apiece from Wester and Smith to take a 28-13 lead, but cooled off to just 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) in the second quarter as the Pioneers pulled within 38-33 at halftime.
In the second half, the Eagles went 15-for-24 (62.5 percent) from the foul line, including 8-for-10 in the final quarter, to offset 36 percent shooting from the field after halftime. Tusculum outshot Carson-Newman for the game, hitting a season-high 44 percent (22-for-50) from the field while limiting the Eagles to 39.3 percent (24-for-61).
Carson-Newman scored the first eight points of the game before Head hit a three-pointer with 8:07 left in the opening quarter to put Tusculum on the board. The Eagles then rattled off 11 points in a row, with the final nine coming from Smith, to take their largest lead of the game at 19-3 with 5:26 left in the opening quarter.
Tusculum trailed 28-13 at the end of one quarter as Carson-Newman scored 16 of their 28 points on the fast break, thanks in part to 11 Pioneer turnovers. Tusculum was 3-for-3 from three-point range in the first half, with two from Head and Patterson adding the third.
The Pioneers opened the second quarter by scoring nine unanswered points to pull within 28-22 on a layup by Jasmine Queen with 6:50 left. A Head basket with 3:02 left in the half brought the Pioneers within 31-28, a margin matched two more times before two free throws from Katie Stubblefield with 11 seconds left sent the Eagles to the locker room with a 38-33 lead.
Head led all players with 13 points in the first half on 3-for-5 shooting from the field, including two three-pointers, and 5-for-7 at the foul line. Smith was the leading scorer for the Eagles in the opening half with 11 points, with nine from Wester and eight by Stubblefield.
The Eagles' lead remained at five at 46-41 midway through the third quarter following a layup by Depew, but a jumper and a three-pointer from Wester pushed the Carson-Newman lead back to double figures at 51-41 with 3:56 to play in the quarter. The Pioneers trailed 59-50 after three quarters as Patterson had a team-high six points in the frame.
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles built their lead up to 15 points at 68-53 with 5:00 left and led 74-58 following a three-pointer from Brooks with 1:50 to go. Tusculum fought back with eight straight points, including a three-point play from Jasmine Williams with 30 seconds left to pull the Pioneers within 74-66. However, a pair of missed Tusculum three-pointers bookended two foul shots from Brooks with nine seconds left that set the final score.
Patterson shot 4-for-11 from the field and went 4-for-5 from the foul line for her 13 points for the Pioneers. Depew reached double figures by going 5-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-2 at the line, helping Tusculum's bench outscore the Carson-Newman subs by a 32-24 margin.
Tusculum finished the game with 27 turnovers, which Carson-Newman turned into 28 points. The Eagles had 19 turnovers in the game, which the Pioneers converted into 20 points. Carson-Newman finished with 21-6 edge in fast-break points, and the Eagles had a slim 24-22 edge in points in the paint.
Carson-Newman finished the game with a 37-31 advantage in rebounds, including 18 offensive boards. Queen matched Johnson for the team high in rebounds for the Pioneers with six, while scoring five points.