GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Sydney Wilson scored 16 of her team-high 19 points in the second half, including 10 in the decisive fourth quarter, as Tusculum rallied for a 73-65 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena.
Wilson hit five of the Pioneers' 11 three-pointers in the game as Tusculum (16-7, 11-6 SAC) moved back into sole possession of third place in the conference with three games left in the regular season, a half-game ahead of both Anderson and Catawba. The Pioneers shot 50 percent (10-for-20) from the field in the second half and hit 6-of-10 from three-point range in a game that featured 12 lead changes, six in each half.
Madi Suddreth paced the Bears (14-13, 8-11 SAC) with a game-high 29 points and eight rebounds, but Lenoir-Rhyne was outscored 28-17 in the fourth quarter after taking a three-point lead into the final period. With the win, Tusculum swept the season series from Lenoir-Rhyne for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
Kasey Johnson contributed 15 points, eight rebounds and a season-best three blocked shots for the Pioneers, connecting on 4-for-5 from three-point range to continue her red-hot shooting from beyond the arc. Mia Long scored 11 points, dished out a game-high 10 assists and had four steals in the victory for the Pioneers, who forced Lenoir-Rhyne into 20 turnovers which the Pioneers converted into 18 points. Tusculum also had a 10-2 edge in second-chance points, fueled by 12 offensive rebounds as a team.
Cassidy Joyner also reached double figures for the Bears with 14 points and six rebounds, and Kendall Toineeta filled the stat sheet with 13 points, seven assists and a game-high seven steals. Lenoir-Rhyne shot 48.1 percent (26-for-54) from the field but went 10-for-14 at the foul line compared to 18-for-32 by Tusculum.
After the Pioneers took the lead on a three-pointer by Johnson, the Bears came back to go on top 11-7 on a jumper by Suddreth with 6:56 left in the first quarter. Johnson scored five straight points as Tusculum regained the lead at 14-13 with 3:29 to go in the quarter, then the Pioneers rattled off the final eight points of the period on three-pointers by Lovely Locklear and Callie Patterson, the latter giving Tusculum a 22-15 lead after the first quarter.
Tusculum took the largest lead for either team at eight points on a foul shot by Locklear in the first minute of the second quarter, but the Bears came back with seven straight points to cut the margin to 23-22 with 5:41 left in the half. The Pioneers never trailed in the second quarter, but a jumper by Suddreth in the closing seconds lifted Lenoir-Rhyne into a 32-32 tie at intermission.
Johnson was the leading scorer in the first half for the Pioneers with eight points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field. Locklear and Martoria Patton each added six points, while Long had a game-high six assists for Tusculum, which shot 44.4 percent (12-for-27) from the field as a team. Suddreth scored a game-high 14 points in the first half for the Bears, who shot 48.3 percent (14-for-29) as a team but just 1-for-4 on three-pointers. Toineeta had seven points and three assists in the opening half.
The Bears used a 7-0 spurt, sparked by a layup and a three-pointer from Joyner, to take their largest lead of the game at 42-36 on a layup by Toineeta with 3:49 left in the third quarter. A Johnson three-pointer on the Pioneers' next possession cut the deficit in half, and a three-pointer from Wilson put Tusculum back on top 43-42 with 2:10 to go in the period. However, the Bears scored six of the final eight points of the quarter to gain a 48-45 lead entering the fourth.
Tusculum scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, three coming at the foul line, to regain a 50-48 lead with 7:38 remaining. Wilson then hit back-to-back three-pointers as the Pioneers went on top 58-51 with 5:50 to go. Another three-pointer by Johnson with 3:43 left pushed the Pioneers ahead 64-56, but Lenoir-Rhyne was able to pull within a point at 66-65 on a layup by Suddreth with 1:47 left. Two free throws from Wilson were followed by single foul shots from Patterson and Johnson as Tusculum's lead grew to 70-65, and Wilson hit two more free throws and Patterson one more to seal the victory.
Johnson, who was 5-for-8 from the field, tied her career high with four three-pointers in the win. Over the last 10 games, Johnson is 20-for-30 (66.7 percent) from beyond the arc and now ranks fourth in the conference from long range at 44.4 percent (36-for-81). With her five three-pointers, Wilson extended her conference-best total to 60 threes this season.
Patton and Yolizma Cupidan each finished with seven points for the Pioneers, while Kendrea Duke had two points, six rebounds and three blocked shots in 21 minutes off the bench. Maddie Sutton also grabbed six rebounds as all nine players to see action for the Pioneers reached the scoring column.
Joyner made all three of the three-pointers for Lenoir-Rhyne in the game, finishing 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and 5-for-8 overall for her 14 points. Suddreth's 29 points marked the eighth time this season she reached the 20-point mark, and are second only to the 35 points she scored against Lees-McRae on Nov. 25. She shot 12-for-20 from the field and 5-for-6 from the foul line for her 29 points.
Tusculum will open the final week of the regular season on Monday, Feb. 19 with a makeup game against Wingate at Pioneer Arena. The game was originally scheduled for Feb. 3, but was postponed due to illness on the Pioneer team. Wingate (21-3, 15-2 SAC), which is ranked second in the NCAA Southeast Region and 22nd in the WBCA national poll, has won 10 straight games and owns an 83-69 win over Tusculum on Dec. 16 at Cuddy Arena. Monday's game will tip off at 4 p.m. and is the final home game of the regular season for the Pioneers.