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Tusculum rally not enough in 83-79 loss at Catawba

Tusculum rally not enough in 83-79 loss at Catawba

SALISBURY, N.C. --- Catawba's Daquan Lilly scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half including four markers in a 10-2 run as the Catawba Indians won their fifth in a row in an 83-79 victory over Tusculum Saturday afternoon at Goodman Gym in South Atlantic Conference men's basketball action.

Catawba (6-1, 2-0 SAC) had to hold off a late TU rally in yet another nail-biter between the Indians and Pioneers (3-5, 0-2 SAC).  In the 46 recorded meetings between Tusculum and Catawba, 23 have been decided by at least five points or less.

Lilly led five players in double figure scoring as he went 9-of-13 from the floor and hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds.  Jameel Taylor contributed 19 points and eight rebounds, while Marcell Haskett added 18 points off the bench shooting 5-of-6 from three-point territory.  Ben Zemonek posted 13 points while Malik Constantine had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Tusculum freshman Trenton Gibson had his best game of his young career as he tallied 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting and went 4-of-5 from the free throw line.  He also hauled in six rebounds and dished out four assists.

TU junior Tariq Jenkins matched a season-high 18 points and six rebounds off the bench, while junior Caleb Hodnett tallied 13 points, shot 6-of-7 from the field with three dunks and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.  Junior Dillon Smith accounted for 12 points and six boards for the Black and Orange.

The first half went back and forth which included two ties and a pair of lead changes as Catawba carried a 39-36 lead into the intermission.

Lilly hit a jumper to start the second half only to see TU go on an 8-2 run capped off by a jumper from Smith as Tusculum led 44-43 with 15:37 remaining in the game.

The lead exchanged hands two more times as Zemonek hit a layup and Lilly made one of two free throws for a 46-44 Catawba lead with 13:55 left.  Back came the Pioneers as Hodnett recorded a dunk to tie the game, but Constantine followed with a pair of free throws as Catawba led 48-46 with 13:34 to go.  Gibson came up with a three-pointer 35 seconds later as Tusculum led 49-48.

The Indians answered with five straight points including three free rows and a Constantine dunk off an offensive rebound to take a 53-49 advantage with 11:13 remaining.

But Gibson came through with a three-point play and Jenkins made one of two free throws to knot the game at 53-53 with 10:29 on the clock.

Again back and forth we went as Lilly broke the tie with an offensive rebound and basket, while Hodnett put home his third dunk of the afternoon to tie the contest at 55-55 with under 10 minutes to go.  Constantine pulled up for a three-pointer, but Myles Jones answered with a triple of his own for the seventh tie of the game with 9:04 remaining.

Taylor converted a three-point play on the next possession for a 61-58 lead but after a missed TU trey, Hodnett came up with a tip-in as TU trailed 61-60 with 7:59 left.  An offensive rebound and bucket by Lilly followed by two free throws from Zemonek and the Indians led by five (65-60) with 7:19 on the scoreboard.

Gibson and Jones made two free throws each on TU's next two trips down the floor to cut the lead back to one at 65-64 with 6:42 remaining.  Lilly and Jenkins exchanged layups, before Catawba went on a 10-2 run over span of 2:39 to take its largest lead of the night at 77-68 with 3:15 to go.  Lilly capped the run with a tip-in for his fourth offensive board of the second half.

Catawba was looking to put the game away holding an 81-73 lead with 1:05 remaining, but the Pioneers wouldn't quit.  TU got off a pair of shots on its ensuing possession before Jenkins made the third try count as he made a layup and was fouled with 50 seconds remaining. He made the free throw to complete the three-point play and cut the deficit to 81-76.

Catawba went cold at the line as Constantine missed his two free throws with 45 seconds, but TU came up empty on its possession.  But with 25 seconds remaining, Gibson came up with a steal and Jenkins converted a three-point play to make it a two-point game (81-79) with 25 seconds remaining.

Devin Cooper was fouled and made one of two free throws with 20 seconds left as TU trailed 82-79.  But a layup with 12 seconds remaining was missed and Constantine made one of his two free throw tries to make it a two possession game to seal the win for the Tribe.

Catawba finished the game shooting 48.3 percent from the floor including 7-of-16 from three-point territory (43.8%).  TU shot 45.7 percent from the field but was held to 5-of-17 shooting (29.4%) from three-point territory including 2-of-10 in the final 20 minutes.

Each team hauled in 39 rebounds with TU holding a 16-15 edge on the offensive boards, but Catawba edged TU 23-22 in second chance points off those rebounds.  The Pioneers out-scored Catawba 44-38 in the paint and forced 11 turnovers by the Indians resulting in 19 points.

Tusculum finished the contest with eight blocked shots including a game-high four by sophomore Brandon Mitchell who upped his career total to 49 rejections, moving him into sole possession of sixth place on the TU record book past Josh Bennett (2008-2010) and Justin Steigerwald (2008-2012) who had 47 blocked shots each during their careers.

The Pioneers held the league's top scoring team to 12 points under its seasonal average, but it is the most points allowed by a TU team this year.

Tusculum, who has played eight of its first nine games on the road, will play six of its next eight at home including next Sunday's (Dec. 9) SAC clash with Newberry at Pioneer Arena beginning at 4 p.m.

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