BRISTOL, Tenn. --- Tusculum University overcame 30 percent shooting by forcing Belmont Abbey College into 25 turnovers as the Pioneers opened the 2019-20 season with a 55-46 victory in the South Atlantic Conference/Conference Carolinas Women's Basketball Challenge at King University Friday night.
Mia Long scored 13 points and added three steals for the Pioneers (1-0), who were outrebounded 44-27 by the Crusaders (0-1) but went 7-for-17 from three-point range and 20-for-25 at the foul line in the game. Both teams were hot from the field in the third quarter, as Tusculum outscored Belmont Abbey 31-26 in the period but just 24-20 for the other three quarters combined.
Kasey Johnson returned to the lineup for the Pioneers after missing last season and finished with 12 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes, including 3-for-3 from three-point range. Maddie Sutton also reached double figures for Tusculum with 12 points to go along with six rebounds.
Keyanna Spivel led the Crusaders with a game-high 16 points, hitting 10-for-11 from the foul line, but the Crusaders were just 15-for-49 from the field (30.6 percent) and converted 16 offensive rebounds into just nine points. Belmont Abbey was just 3-for-19 from three-point range in the game, including 1-for-9 in the second half.
Johnson scored the first points of the season for the Pioneers, but Allie Downing responded with a three-pointer as the Crusaders took their only lead of the game at 3-2. Tusculum scored six straight points to go up 8-3 on a three-pointer by Jalia Arnwine, and a steal and basket by Elle Hutchinson extended the Pioneer advantage to 12-5 with 2:35 left in the first quarter.
Tusculum would then go scoreless for more than six minutes as Belmont Abbey cut the lead to 12-11 on a jumper by Spivey with 7:16 left in the first half. An exchange of three-pointers by the Pioneers' Mya Belton and the Crusaders' Downing left Tusculum up 16-14 with 4:37 left in the half, and neither team would score the rest of the quarter as Tusculum was 0-for-5 with two turnovers and Belmont Abbey missed eight shots and turned the ball over twice.
The scoring drought finally ended on a foul shot by Spivey in the first minute of the second half, and Johnson made the first field goal for either team in more than five minutes as she drilled a three-pointer for a 19-15 Tusculum lead with 9:24 left in the third quarter. The basket unleashed a scoring barrage for both sides, with Johnson drilling another three for a 27-19 Pioneer lead with 7:45 left in the period.
Long hit a three-pointer and two free throws during an 8-0 Tusculum run that gave the Pioneers their largest lead at 42-30 with 3:37 left in the quarter. Hutchinson connected from long range with 52 seconds left in the quarter as Tusculum carried a 47-40 lead into the final period. Johnson led all players with 10 points in the third as the Pioneers were 14-for-15 from the foul line and 5-for-6 from three-point range in the quarter.
The teams then went ice-cold again to start the fourth quarter, with a foul shot from Sutton accounting for the only point for either squad over the first 4 1/2 minutes. Meanwhile, the Crusaders shot just 2-for-12 from the field in the final quarter and missed all six of their three-point attempts. A basket by Belmont Abbey's Alexis Schulz with 4:55 to play was her team's lone field goal in the quarter until Downing scored in the final seconds to set the final margin.
Arnwine and Hutchinson each finished with five points for the Pioneers, while Brianna Dixon had three points, three rebounds and three steals in her Tusculum debut. Spivey was the only player in double figures for the Crusaders, who received a game-high 13 rebounds and nine points from Downing on 3-for-12 shooting.
Tusculum scored 16 points off the 25 turnovers by Belmont Abbey, while the Pioneers turned the ball over 14 times which resulted in just five points for the Crusaders. Each team received 12 points off its bench, with Belmont Abbey's Brittany Autry scoring eight points and adding five rebounds before fouling out after just 13 minutes.
The Pioneers will conclude play in the SAC/Conference Carolinas Challenge against host King on Saturday at 2 p.m.