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Key second half run sparks Lenoir-Rhyne to 77-74 win over Pioneers

Brandon Mitchell scored a career-high 20 points in Tusculum's SAC road game at Lenoir-Rhyne
Brandon Mitchell scored a career-high 20 points in Tusculum's SAC road game at Lenoir-Rhyne

HICKORY, N.C. --- The Lenoir-Rhyne men's basketball team recorded 12 three-pointers including four by Deontae Walker in three minutes stretch in the second half to lead the Bears to a 77-74 South Atlantic Conference win over visiting Tusculum Saturday afternoon at Shuford Memorial Gymnasium.

Walker accounted for all the offense in a key 14-4 run by L-R as the Bears improve to 10-3 on the season and 3-2 in the league. Tusculum drops to 4-8 overall and remain winless in conference play (0-4).

Tusculum sophomore Brandon Dickson led all scorers with a career-high 20 points shooing 8-of-11 from the floor while hauling in seven rebounds.  Donovan Donaldson added 16 markers, while Tariq Jenkins and Dillon Smith posted 11 points each in the loss.

Lenoir-Rhyne's Djibrill Diallo led the Bears with 18 points, Weaver had 14, while Jonathan Jean and Bertrand Awana added 12 and 10 points, respectively.

The Bears, who never trailed in the game, scored the first five points of the game and jumped out to a 14-4 lead in the opening five minutes.  LR led by as many as 11 in the first half (27-16) before the Pioneers used a 10-0 run to whittle the deficit to 27-26 following an offensive rebound and put-back by Cam King.

Lenoir-Rhyne would score the next seven points and would later take a 36-30 lead into the locker room.

Early in the second half with the Bears leading 41-34, the Pioneers scored seven straight points including sparked by a three-point play from freshman Trenton Gibson and a game-tying basket from Donaldson to knot the score at 41-41 with 14:42 to go.

Weaver sparked the key run scoring the next 14 points himself in the 14-5 spurt covering a span of 3:01 as the Bears led 55-45 with 11:53 remaining in the game.

The Pioneers trimmed the deficit to six at 60-54 with 9:21 left following two made free throws from Donaldson.  LR answered with a 10-2 run to take its largest lead of the day at 70-56 after an offensive rebound and layup from Awana with 7:10 to go.

Tusculum put together its second 10-0 run of the game capped off by a block and a fast-break jumper from Mitchell as TU trailed 70-66 with under four minutes left.

The teams traded baskets as Awana converted a layup and Mitchell answered with a big offensive board and layup as LR led 72-68 with 2:58 remaining.

Diallo connected on a nine-foot jumper in the paint but Smith answered for Tusculum with a long three-pointer as TU drew within three at 74-71 with 1:45 on the scoreboard.

Jean converted a huge basket on the Bears' ensuing possession to give the home team a 76-71 lead with 1:28 remaining.

Tusculum got two shots off by Smith on the next possession, a three-pointer and a jumper off his offensive rebound.  Jenkins came up with the rebound on Smith's miss and was fouled.  He made the second of his two free throws as TU trailed 76-72 with 30 seconds left.

Tusculum applied the full court press as LR's Cory Thomas got free but missed the wide open layup.  Gibson came up with the rebound but his cross court pass was caught by Smith in the left corner, but when he came down with the ball his left foot was on the sideline with 19 seconds remaining.

TU still had a chance as Smith came up with a steal, but the ball was dislodged by Weaver and recovered by R.J. Gunn who was fouled with eight seconds left.  He made one of two free throws for a 77-72 lead.  Donaldson drove in for a layup to cut the LR lead to 77-74 with 1.5 seconds left.  Jean was fouled immediately with 0.5 seconds left.  He missed the free throw, but TU was unable to get off a viable shot as the Bears held on for the win.

Both teams connected on 29 field goals and shot nearly the same from the field with TU going 29-of-62 from the floor, while LR went 29-of-61.  But the difference game beyond the arc as the Bears went 12-of-30 from three-point land (40%) while Tusculum went 5-of-15 (33%).  Lenoir-Rhyne edged Tusculum 36-35 on the boards.  TU shot 11-of-17 from the free throw line (65%) while LR went 7-of-12 at the charity stripe.

Tusculum begins a three-game home-stand this Wednesday hosting Mars Hill for an 8 p.m. contest.  TU will be playing six of its next eight games at Pioneer Arena after playing only three home games in its first 12 contests.

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