CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Lees-McRae opened the game with 16-4 run, but had to hold off a late Tusculum charge as the Bobcats defeated the Pioneers 85-80 Sunday afternoon at the Curry Arena on the Queens University of Charlotte campus.
LMC's Andrew Gardner led the way with 15 points, while Jason Saintizaire added 14 points off the bench as the Bobcats improved to 3-1 on the season.
Tusculum's Brandon Mitchell scored 19 points and hauled in a career-high 15 rebounds for the Pioneers. TU also got 16 points and seven boards from Caleb Hodnett, while Trenton Gibson poured in 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in the losing effort.
Lees-McRae, who held a 43-31 lead at halftime, were up by as many as 16 in the second half (51-35).
The Bobcats led 64-50 with 8:30 remaining in the game before Tusculum went on a 13-1 run over the next 2:24 to trim the deficit to 65-63 with 6:06 remaining. TU got three-pointers from Keaston Brown, Gibson and Hodnett, while Brandon Mitchell slammed home a dunk to get the rally started.
The Bobcats later pushed the lead back to six points at 74-68 following a three-point play from Sidney Dollar. But a three-point play from Hodnett and two Justin Mitchell free throws made the score 74-73 with two minutes left.
Lees-McRae made seven of its final nine free throw attempts down the stretch and got a three-point play from Anthony Hicks with four seconds remaining to seal the win for the Bobcats.
LMC shot 46 percent from the floor and went 7-of-17 from three-point territory (41.2%). The Bobcats shot 80 percent from the free throw stripe as well going 32-40 including 15-of-17 in the first 20 minutes.
The Pioneers (3-2) out-rebounded Lees-McRae 52-29 including 28-7 on the offensive boards as Brandon Mitchell accounted for 10 offense rebounds in the contest. LMC converted Tusculum 17 turnovers into 22 points and held a 10-0 advantage in fast-break scoring. Tusculum was whistled for 32 fouls while Lees-McRae was charged with 25 fouls.
Tusculum returns to action this Saturday when the Pioneers travel to North Georgia for a 7 p.m. contest and the UNG Convocation Center.