GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University men's basketball team returns to South Atlantic Conference play for the remainder of the season, beginning with two league contests this week to close out the pre-holiday schedule for the Black and Orange.
Tusculum will host league-newcomer UVa-Wise on Wednesday before traveling to defending SAC Champion Queens University of Charlotte on Saturday to take on the nationally-ranked Royals.
The Pioneers (7-4, 2-1 SAC) are tied for fourth place in the league standings and have won four of their last six outings including Saturday's 73-69 win at Young Harris College.
RECAPPING LAST WEEK
Tusculum opened last week with an 87-75 setback and Southeast Region foe Lees-McRae as the Bobcats complete the season sweep over the Pioneers. TU's Tariq Jenkins led five players in double figures with his 17 points, while dishing out a career-high seven assists. Dillon Smith poured in five 3-pointers for his 15 points, while the trio of Joshua Scott, Trenton Gibson and Caleb Hodnett contributed 10 markers each.
In the loss at Lees-McRae, the Pioneers were out-rebounded for the first time this season (31-25) while also suffering their first true road loss of 2019-20.
In Saturday's win at Young Harris, Tusculum played stifling defense in the first half and jumped out to a 20-point lead in the second period. But TU had to hold off a furious comeback try before settling for the four-point victory and complete the season sweep over the Mountain Lions.
Scott matched his season-high with 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Hodnett added 12 points and six boards off the bench. Gibson tallied 10 points and seven rebounds including two free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory. Brandon Mitchell scored 10 points and hauled in six rebounds, while Jenkins tied a career-high with six steals and finished with six points and three assists in the win.
The UVa-Wise Cavaliers are in their first season as a member of the SAC and are 4-5 overall and 1-3 in league action. The Cavs have dropped three of their last four contests including Saturday's 73-67 home loss to Newberry. UVa-Wise's lone league win came last month in a 90-75 home victory over Anderson. The Cavs' other wins have come against Piedmont, Berea and Alice Lloyd.
Wednesday's meeting between Tusculum and UVa-Wise will be the 33rd recording encounter between the two schools and first since Dec. 13, 2003.
Cameron Whiteside leads UVa-Wise in scoring averaging 18.8 points per game which is fifth in the conference. Briggs Parris is posting 14.4 points per game including his game-high 20 markers on Saturday against Newberry.
Queens enters the week tied with Tusculum for fourth-place in the league standings. The Royals are 7-2 overall and 2-1 in the SAC and will travel to Coker on Wednesday before hosting Tusculum this weekend. Queens has not seen action since dropping a 73-64 decision at Lincoln Memorial on Dec. 7. Their league wins have come against Anderson and Lenoir-Rhyne, both at home.
Daniel Carr leads the Royals in scoring averaging 16.1 points per game, while also tallying 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per contest. Jamari Smith and Jermaine Patterson are second and third on the team in scoring averaging 15.2 ppg and 15.0 ppg per contest, respectively.
Tusculum will be playing at the Levine Center for a third time this year as TU dropped a pair of contests to UNC Pembroke and Lees-McRae last month in Charlotte.
The Pioneers continue to be one of the top rebounding teams in the nation. Tusculum leads NCAA Division II in both rebound margin (+12.8) and offensive rebounds per game (18.91 rpg) and is 10th in total rebounds per game (43.4 rpg).
TU is third in the conference in scoring defense allowing 70 points per game and hold an impressive 7-1 record when limiting the opposition to fewer than 80 points so far this year.
Jenkins leads the Pioneers in scoring averaging 14.7 points per game (19th in SAC). Gibson, the 2019 SAC Freshman of the Year, is second on the team scoring 13.4 points per contest (26th in SAC) and is third in rebounding (6.2 rpg – 19th in SAC). Gibson also leads TU in both assists (4.2 apg – 7th in SAC) and steals (1.6 spg – 9th in SAC) per game game.
Mitchell leads TU in rebounding with his 7.6 boards per game average (5th in SAC), which includes a SAC-best 3.9 offensive rebound average (14th in NCAA II). Mitchell also leads the team in blocked shots (1.4 bpg – 5th in SAC) to go along with his 8.3 points per game. Hodnett is averaging 10 points per contest and is second on the team in rebounding, pulling down 6.6 boards per outing (12th in SAC).
Scott is having an outstanding freshman campaign averaging 7.6 points per game including 13 ppg in his last four outings. During that four-game span he is shooting 61 percent from the field, including 44 percent from three-point land. His seasonal field goal percentage (.516) is tops on the team and 15th in the league.
FOLLOW THE GAME
The "Voice of the Pioneers" Brian Stayton will describe all the action of Tusculum basketball on the Pioneer Sports Network. Fans can listen to the games locally on WSMG Radio at 95.5 FM and 1450 AM, and on-line at jewel955.com. Live video and live stats links are also available at www.TusculumPioneers.com.