Lenoir-Rhyne rallies in 4th for 57-53 win over Tusculum

Benedicta Makakala had 11 points in 40 minutes for the Pioneers
Benedicta Makakala had 11 points in 40 minutes for the Pioneers

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- An 8-0 run midway through the fourth quarter propelled Lenoir-Rhyne University to a 57-53 victory over Tusculum College Saturday afternoon in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action from Pioneer Arena.

Madi Suddreth posted game highs of 20 points and eight rebounds for the Bears (14-8, 10-6 SAC), who trailed 48-43 with less than seven minutes remaining before Brooke Robinson scored six of her 15 points on consecutive possessions to give Lenoir-Rhyne the lead for good at 49-48 with 5:14 to play.

Kasey Johnson led the Pioneers (5-15, 4-12 SAC) with 14 points and six rebounds and matched her career high with four steals, but the Pioneers shot 36.5 percent (19-for-52) from the field as a team and were outrebounded by the Bears by a 39-27 margin.

Tusculum led 48-43 following a three-pointer by Benedicta Makakala with 7:38 left, but Robinson scored three straight buckets over a span of 1 minute, 22 seconds to put the Bears back in front 49-48 with 5:14 left. Lenoir-Rhyne led 53-51 with less than two minutes to play, but Tusculum had a go-ahead three-pointer waved off for a three-second violation in the paint. Robinson then converted a basket at the other end to extend the Bears' lead to 55-51 with 56.8 seconds remaining.

Makakala answered at the other end to cut the margin to two, but Suddreth broke free on the ensuing inbounds pass for a breakaway layup and a 57-53 Lenoir-Rhyne lead with 24.4 seconds on the clock. Tusculum missed on its final two field-goal attempts as Lenoir-Rhyne came away with a sweep of the season series from the Pioneers for the second time in the last three seasons.

In the first quarter, Tusculum cashed in on seven Lenoir-Rhyne turnovers to score 10 points as the teams were tied 16-16 at the end of a quarter. Johnson led the Pioneers with eight points on 4-for-6 shooting, while Suddreth paced the Bears with six points as Lenoir-Rhyne shot 7-for-10 from the field in the opening period.

An 8-0 run early in the second quarter, fueled by a three-pointer and two foul shots from Suddreth, pushed the Bears on top 24-18 with 5:10 left in the half. Lenoir-Rhyne took its largest lead of the game at 29-20 on a three-point play by Morgan Cooper with 2:14 left in the half, but a three-point play from Tusculum's Callie Patterson helped trim the margin to 31-25 at the half.

Lenoir-Rhyne shot 48 percent (12-for-25) from the field in the first half, with Suddreth leading the way with 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting from the floor. Johnson had 12 points and five rebounds for the Pioneers, who shot 37.0 percent (10-for-27) from the field and missed on all five of their three-point attempts. Tusculum had 15 points off 11 Lenoir-Rhyne turnovers in the first half, while turning the ball over just seven times themselves.

The Bears restored their nine-point lead at 38-29 on a basket by Suddreth with 7:17 to play in the third quarter, but back-to-back three-pointers from Maelyn Head and Jasmine Queen helped the Pioneers pull within 42-41 with 1:06 to play in the third quarter. Lenoir-Rhyne led 43-41 heading into the final quarter after shooting 3-for-11 from the field in the third quarter, while Tusculum hit 6-for-14 from the floor and went 3-for-6 from long range in the third period.

Makakala finished with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists while playing all 40 minutes for the Pioneers. Sydney Wilson also reached double figures with 10 points, while Patterson had seven points and three rebounds in 36 minutes. Head added five points in 20 minutes off the bench, and Queen had four points and four rebounds in 37 minutes for Tusculum.

Chelsey Romero joined Suddreth and Robinson in double figures for Lenoir-Rhyne with 10 points and seven rebounds. Cooper had seven points and three rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench, while Justyce Swango was held scoreless but dished out a game-high five assists in 32 minutes for the Bears.

Tusculum finished the game with 27 points off 18 Lenoir-Rhyne turnovers, while the Bears had 10 points off 14 Pioneer miscues. Lenoir-Rhyne outscored Tusculum 34-12 in the paint, 10-6 on second-chance points and 10-4 on fast-break points.

The Pioneers will play their next two games on the road, starting Wednesday night, February 8 at first-place Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters, who beat the Pioneers 83-71 in Greeneville on Jan. 18, saw their perfect 20-0 record spoiled on Saturday with a last-second 71-69 loss to Wingate at Tex Turner Arena. Game time from Harrogate will be 6 p.m. on Wednesday.