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Donaldson, Gibson shine in TU's sixth straight victory, Pioneers win 79-65 over Wingate

Coach J.T. Burton (middle) with his senior class. (lt-rt): Austin Hall, Jackie Davis, Donovan Donaldson, Malik Tyree (photo by Chuck Williams)
Coach J.T. Burton (middle) with his senior class. (lt-rt): Austin Hall, Jackie Davis, Donovan Donaldson, Malik Tyree (photo by Chuck Williams)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Donovan Donaldson made his Senior Day a memorable one as he poured in 24 points to lead the Tusculum University men's basketball team to a 77-65 South Atlantic Conference win over Wingate University Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena in the regular season finale for both teams.

The Pioneers (16-12, 12-8 SAC) record their sixth consecutive win and complete the season-sweep over the Bulldogs (16-12, 12-8 SAC) since 2010.  With the victory, Tusculum finishes in a three-way tie for fourth place in the final SAC standings along with Wingate and Lenoir-Rhyne. TU wins the tiebreaker by virtue of its 3-1 record (2-0 vs Wingate, 1-1 vs L-R) over the Bulldogs and Bears and claims the No. 4 seed in next week's Pilot/Flying J SAC Men's Basketball Tournament.  Tusculum will host Lenoir-Rhyne in a SAC Quarterfinal game this Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Pioneer Arena.

Donaldson finished the game shooting 9-of-14 from the field including 4-of-8 from three-point territory while also grabbing six rebounds and dished out five assists.  Freshman Trenton Gibson posted his first career double-double with season-highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds.  Junior Tariq Jenkins added 11 points, while senior Jackie Davis had two points and nine rebounds.

Wingate's Marco Haskins led all scorers with his 30-point performance including five 3-pointers and went 9-of-9 at the free throw line.  Jakob Dawkins contributed nine points and four steals while Quantra Taylor and Frankie Johnson had eight points each for the Bulldogs.

Tusculum, who trailed 32-31 at halftime, shot 55.6 percent in the second half (15-of-27) including seven of 14 from beyond the arc.  Donaldson poured in 16 of his 24 points in the final period, shooting 6-of-8 from the floor including three 3-pointers.

The Pioneers used a key 13-4 run capped off by a steal and layup by Jenkins as Tusculum took its first double-digit lead of the day at 57-47 with 8:53 left in the game.

The Bulldogs answered with three free throws from Haskins and a two successful trips at the foul line by Johnson as Wingate whittled the deficit to 57-52 with 7:43 remaining.

A triple by Donaldson and a jumper from Haskins made the score 60-54 in favor of the Pioneers.  TU jumped went on a 9-3 spurt to take its largest lead of the game at 69-57 on a layup from Brandon Mitchell with 1:50 remaining.

The Bulldogs made one final charge scoring six straight including a steal by Quantra Taylor resulting in a Haskins fast-break three-pointer as the TU lead was cut to 69-63 with 39 seconds left.  But the Pioneers made their foul shots count making eight in a row in the final 33 seconds including six straight by Gibson as the Pioneers will host its first SAC Quarterfinal game since Mar. 3, 2010.

Tusculum limited the Bulldogs to 31 percent shooting from the field including 6-of-28 from three-point land.  TU held a 41-31 edge in rebounding but the Pioneers were held to single-digit offensive rebounds (8) for the first time this season.  Wingate forced 18 turnovers with 11 steals as the Bulldogs scored 23 points off of TU's miscues.  TU also held the advantage in fast-break points (13-7 and bench scoring (24-8).

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