WINGATE, N.C. --- Wingate shot 54.4 percent from the field and forced 26 Tusculum turnovers as the 14th-ranked Bulldogs defeated the Pioneers 83-69 in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Cuddy Arena.
Marta Miscenko finished with 20 points and nine rebounds and Danasia Witherspoon added 17 points and 10 boards for the Bulldogs (9-1, 4-0 SAC), who built a 13-point lead at the end of one quarter and led by as many as 21 points in the second half.
Sydney Wilson scored a career-high 26 points on the strength of a career-best six three-pointers for the Pioneers (8-3, 3-2 SAC), who were outscored 52-26 in the paint and shot 41.4 percent (24-for-58) from the field in the game.
Miscenko shot 10-for-17 from the field and Witherspoon connected on 7-for-10 from the floor for Wingate, which went 31-for-57 on field goals as a team and hit 19-for-23 from the foul line in the victory. Caroline Averette also reached double figures for the Bulldogs, with 15 points, four assists and three steals.
Joining Wilson in double figures for the Pioneers were Mia Long, who had 13 points and four steals, along with Kasey Johnson who had 11 points and four rebounds. Tusculum was outrebounded by Wingate by a 33-31 margin, but the Pioneers had 13 offensive boards which they turned into 15 points.
Wilson's 26 points surpassed her previous career best of 21 points set on two occasions, while her six three-pointers broke her previous high of four set against King on Nov. 11. Wilson went 8-for-15 from the field, 6-for-11 from beyond the arc and 4-for-5 from the foul line in 33 minutes of playing time.
Tusculum's only lead came on two free throws by Wilson in the opening seconds, as Wingate grabbed a 4-2 lead on baskets from Witherspoon and Miscenko. After the Pioneers tied the game on a basket by Long, the Bulldogs scored went on an 8-2 run to take a 12-6 lead on two free throws from Taziya Moody with 3:58 to go in the first quarter. A three-pointer from Wilson cut the deficit to three points, but four points apiece from Miscenko and Moody were part of a 10-0 run to close the quarter and give Wingate a 22-9 lead heading to the second period.
The Pioneers cut the deficit to 22-13 on a free throw by Wilson and a three-point play by Long, but the Bulldogs built the lead to 14 points as Averette hit a three-pointer with 7:32 left in the first half. Leading 31-21, the Bulldogs reeled off 10 straight points to take a 41-21 lead on two foul shots by Averette with 1:28 to go in the half. Johnson scored five points in the final minute of the half for the Pioneers, but Wingate carried a 43-28 lead into intermission.
Miscenko shot 6-for-8 from the field and had a team-high 12 points in the first half for Wingate, which went 16-for-30 from the field (53.3 percent) and 10-for-12 (83.3 percent) from the foul line. Averette had nine points and Moody added seven on 7-for-8 shooting from the free-throw stripe in the opening half.
Tusculum, which turned the ball over 19 times in the first half, was led in scoring by Wilson who had 12 points. Long contributed seven points for the Pioneers and Johnson had five for Tusculum, which went 9-for-27 (33.3 percent) from the field and 3-for-10 from three-point range in the half.
Wingate's lead swelled to 18 points at 48-30 on a three-pointer by Taylor Helms in the opening minute of the third quarter, as Tusculum could get no closer than 13 points. The Bulldogs had their largest lead of the day at 70-49 following a putback by Zasha Barrett with 1:00 left in the third quarter, before the Pioneers scored the final five points of the period to cut the deficit to 70-54.
Wilson hit a three-pointer with 8:44 left to bring the Pioneers within 74-60 with 8:22 to go, and connected on another with 3:22 remaining to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 78-69. However, the Pioneers would go 0-for-3 with three turnovers the rest of the way as Wingate closed the scoring on a basket by Barrett and a three-point play from Courtney Robinson.
Martoria Patton and Maddie Sutton shared the team lead with five rebounds each for Tusculum, while Sutton led the Pioneers and had a season high with four assists. Yolizma Cupidan contributed six points, three rebounds and two steals for the Pioneers, while Callie Patterson had four points and two rebounds off the bench. Also for Tusculum, Jalia Arnwine contributed three points and three boards in a season-high 16 minutes of action.
Averette went 4-for-7 from the field and 6-for-6 from the foul line for her 15 points, while also sharing the team lead with Witherspoon and Miscenko with four assists and with Witherspoon and Robinson with three steals. Moody had nine points and four rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench, while Barrett added six points and four boards.
Wingate turned the ball over 17 times compared to 26 for Tusculum, but both teams finished the game with 20 points off their opponents' miscues. The Pioneers had a 15-10 edge in second-chance points and a 15-4 edge in fast break points in the game.
Tusculum will travel to play Division I UNC Greensboro in an exhibition game on Tuesday at 11 a.m. The Pioneers' next conference game is Wednesday, January 3 at Mars Hill beginning at 6 p.m.