Donaldson, Jenkins pace Pioneers to 79-56 win over Flames

Donaldson, Jenkins pace Pioneers to 79-56 win over Flames

CLEVELAND, Tenn. --- Donovan Donaldson poured in 19 points, while Tariq Jenkins added 18 markers to lead the Tusculum University men's basketball team to a 79-56 win over Lee University Monday night at Walker Arena.

Tusculum (2-3) snaps a 16-game losing streak to the Flames (1-4), a drought spanning 32 years.  It was also TU's second-ever win on the Cleveland campus with its last victory at Lee coming Jan. 19, 1980 (38 seasons).

The Pioneers shot a blistering 19-of-31 from the floor (61.3%) in the first half, including 9-of-14 from three-point territory in the opening 20 minutes to take a 47-32 lead at the intermission.  Donaldson scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half shooting 4-of-4 from the beyond the arc and finish the half shooting 6-of-7 overall.

The Tusculum defense limited Lee to 35.9 percent on the night (23-of-64) including 2-of-20 from three-point land (10%).

LU's Ryan Montgomery led the hosts with his 18 points and seven rebounds, while Colton Blevins added 12 points off the bench for the Flames.

The Pioneers, who shot a dismal 8-of-21 from the free throw line in Saturday's 71-68 road loss at defending Conference Carolinas champion Lees-McRae, bounced back at the charity stripe 48 hours later going 14-of-18 at the line (78%) including Jenkins' 8-of-8 performance at the stripe.

After Donaldson bucket to open the game, the Flames scored six straight points to take an early 6-2 lead thanks to back-to-back field goals by Jason Landman.

The Pioneers responded with a 28-8 run over a span of 8:47 to take 30-14 lead with 8:02 remaining in the first half. During that run, the quartet of Jenkins, Donaldson, Dillon Smith and Myles Jones each connected on a triple as the Pioneers were on their way.

The Flames chipped away at the deficit and trailed 40-32 with 1:50 to go following a Michael McGuirk layup.  But the Pioneers responded scoring the final seven points of the half, Caleb Hodnett accounted for four points during the run including his offensive rebound and slam dunk and Donaldson drained a three-pointer with four seconds left to send TU to the locker room with a 15-point lead (47-32).

Donaldson scored the first points of the second half with his driving jumper into the paint to extend the lead to 49-32.  Lee responded with a 6-0 run to whittle the TU lead to 49-38 with 17:39 left in the game.

After a Tusculum timeout, the Pioneers answered with an 11-2 run to extend the lead to 60-40 following a pair of Gibson free throws and a Smith layup off an Austin Hall steal with 10:39 left in the game.

The Flames made one final push using a 7-0 run to cut TU's lead to 62-49 with 5:37 remaining following a triple from McGuirk.

But Jenkins stopped the rally with his second trey of the evening and spark a 17-5 run to put the game out of reach and seal the victory for the Black and Orange.

Tusculum edged the Flames 37-35 on the boards as Hodnett led all players with his eight rebounds.  Cam King hauled in five boards and finished with a season-high four blocked shots.

After starting the game on fire, TU chilled in the second half shooting only 7-of-26 (27%) to finish the game at 45.6 percent (26-of-57).  The Pioneers ended the game shooting 11-of-22 from three-point territory and limiting the Flames to only 24 points in the final 20 minutes.

After opening the season on the road for five straight games (not including three Division I exhibitions at Arkansas, Tennessee, and Cincinnati), the Pioneers will play its home opener this Saturday afternoon when they host Lander University in a rematch.  TU defeated the Lander 73-62 last Wednesday in Greenwood, South Carolina.