Quick start sparks Pioneers to fourth straight win

Quick start sparks Pioneers to fourth straight win

HARTSVILLE, S.C. --- The Tusculum University men's basketball team scored the first 12 points of the game and led wire-to-wire in Saturday's 79-65 South Atlantic Conference win at Coker College.

The Pioneers (14-12, 10-8 SAC) record their fourth consecutive victory and have won five of their last six games.  TU also completes the season-sweep over the Cobras (3-23, 1-18 SAC) who drop their 14th straight loss.

Freshman guard Trenton Gibson led the Pioneers with his 20-point performance, going 9-of-13 from the floor, while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists.  Junior Tariq Jenkins added 16 points, including 10 in the second half as he went 7-of-10 from the field and posted six steals, which are tied for the fourth most in TU history.

Junior Caleb Hodnett finished with 13 points and nine rebounds as his streak with 20-point games ends at three in a row.  Junior Dillon Smith added nine points while junior Cam King posted eight markers with two blocked shots.  Senior Jackie Davis tallied five points and hauled in a career-best 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.

Coker was led in scoring by LaDarius Williams who contributed 17 points off the bench, while Larry Cooper and Roy Ellis scored 13 and 12 points, respectively.

The Pioneers made their first five shots of the day, while Coker went 0-for-11 in the opening 6:48 to start the game.  Hodnett and Gibson sparked the TU start scoring six points apiece as the Pioneers led 12-0 at the 16:52 mark of the half.

Both teams went ice gold as neither scored for a span of 3:40 before Coker's Christopher Fordham broke the drought with his layup at the 13:12 mark of the period to put the Cobras on the board.

Coker trimmed the deficit to single digits thanks to a pair of Cooper free throws and a Halls basket as the Cobras trailed 14-6.  But Tusculum went on a 16-5 run over span of 4:57 to take a 30-11 advantage with 5:56 to go in the half.

Tusculum led 32-17 with 3:31 remaining before halftime, but Coker carried the momentum into the locker room, closing out the half on a 10-2 run as TU led 34-27 at the intermission.

Coker made it a 14-2 spurt with Cooper and Williams scoring the first four points of the second half, cutting the once 19-point deficit down to three (34-31).

The Pioneers responded with an 8-0 run, which was capped off by two free throws from King as TU led by double figures again at 42-31 with 16 minutes left.

The teams traded baskets including Lindsey's steal and basket with 12:42 remaining as Coker trailed 48-39.  But TU mustered a 17-6 run including six points from Smith as the Pioneers took their largest lead of the game at 65-45 with 7:39 on the scoreboard.

Tusculum maintained its distance for the remainder of the contest with Coker getting as close a 14 before the Pioneers cruised in with a 79-65 victory.

TU out-rebounded the Cobras by a 42-38 margin including 16-8 on the offensive boards.  Tusculum finished the game shooting 47.7 percent from the floor while Coker connected on 44.6 percent of its shot attempts.

TU head coach J.T. Burton has led the Pioneers to its first season with double-digit SAC wins since 2009-10 when TU went 10-6 in league play.  TU's four-game winning streak in the month of February is its first since that same 2009-10 campaign.

Tusculum closes out the regular season with a pair of home games this week beginning with Wednesday's clash with in-state rival and defending SAC champion Lincoln Memorial at 8 p.m. from Pioneer Arena.  TU will host Wingate for Senior Day next Saturday.