CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Tariq Jenkins scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half as Tusculum University overcame a double-digit deficit for the second straight game and defeated 20th-ranked Queens University of Charlotte 67-61 in South Atlantic Conference men's basketball action Saturday afternoon at the Levine Center.
The Pioneers (9-4, 4-1 SAC) trailed by 12 points late in the first half, but took the lead with a 21-4 run and never trailed again for just their second win in 17 all-time meetings with the Royals and their first victory at the Levine Center in seven trips. Queens (8-3, 3-2 SAC) had won the six previous games on its home court over Tusculum by an average of 18.7 points per game.
The win was the sixth for Tusculum in 53 games against a ranked opponent since 1998, and snapped a streak of 10 straight losses to ranked foes since their only previous win over Queens, a 96-89 double-overtime victory against the 12th-ranked Royals on Feb. 27, 2016. Tusculum's only other road win against a ranked Division II opponent was a 68-64 victory at 20th-ranked Wingate on Feb. 23, 2002.
Tusculum, which rallied from a 10-point deficit to defeat UVa-Wise 86-84 on Wednesday, has won after trailing by double digits three times this season and seven times in the past two seasons under head coach JT Burton. The 61 points were the second-fewest scored by the Royals in their 17 meetings with Tusculum, and the fewest scored by Queens since a 76-55 loss to Belmont Abbey on Nov. 24, 2018.
Jenkins, who scored a career-high 25 points in Wednesday's win over UVa-Wise, shot 6-for-10 from the field, including two three-pointers, and was 6-for-8 from the foul line including a pair of key free throws with 1:20 left which gave Tusculum a 65-60 lead. Queens missed its final five shots from the field and never got any closer than four points following Jenkins' foul shots.
Trenton Gibson added 11 points and matched his career high with 11 rebounds for the Pioneers, who shot 48 percent (24-for-50) from the field and 12-for-15 from the foul line as a team. Tusculum dominated on the glass, outrebounding Queens by a 44-24 margin, and the Pioneers recorded 11 blocked shots to tie for the second-most in a game in program history with the 11 blocks posted at Milligan on Jan. 29, 2002.
Brandon Mitchell led the Pioneer block party with five rejections, one shy of his career high, and also contributed six points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes of playing time. Joshua Scott and Keaston Brown each knocked down a pair of threes and finished with six points apiece, as Tusculum shot 7-for-16 (43.8 percent) from beyond the arc.
Queens, which was without leading scorer and All-Region performer Daniel Carr (16.1 points per game) for the second straight game, received 14 points from Van Turner and 12 points from Kenny Dye and Jachai Taylor. As a team, the Royals shot 35.6 percent (21-for-59) and 8-for-24 from three-point range, but were able to force the Pioneers into 21 turnovers with 13 coming in the opening half.
The Royals bolted to an early 8-2 lead on three-pointers by Turner and Dye, and led 10-2 as Tusculum missed four of its first five shots and turned the ball over five times in the first six minutes. Queens would go ahead 14-4 on a Dye putback with 12:21 left in the first half, but Tusculum came back with seven straight points to pull within 14-11 on a Brown three-pointer with 9:25 left in the half.
Another Tusculum drought, covering more than three minutes, saw the Pioneers trail 22-11 on a layup by Jermaine Patterson with 6:27 remaining in the half. Queens would take its largest lead of the day at 25-13 on three foul shots by Turner with 4:27 left, and again at 28-16 as Taylor drained a three with 2:55 to go. However, Tusculum closed the first half with nine consecutive points spread among Jenkins, Mitchell and Gibson to cut the deficit to 28-25 at halftime.
Tusculum offset its 13 first-half turnovers by shooting 50 percent (9-for-18) from the field, led by six points from Mitchell and five apiece by Jenkins and Gibson. Queens, which was 10-for-30 (33.3 percent) from the floor and 5-for-13 from three-point range in the half, was led by Turner with 12 points on 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Scott hit a three-pointer on the first possession of the second half to tie the game at 28-28, and Jenkins converted a steal into a layup as the Pioneers went up for the first time at 30-28 with 18:53 left. A three-point play by Smith tied the game at 32-32 with 16:35 remaining, then the teams began exchanging 7-0 runs as the game was deadlocked 39-39 and again 46-46, the latter with 8:52 left.
Tusculum then ran off eight straight points, highlighted by three-pointers from Jenkins and Scott, to take its largest lead of the game at 54-46 with 7:00 to go. Taylor helped keep the Royals close by nailing a three-pointer and two field goals, the latter bringing Queens to within 58-55 with 3:52 on the clock. A basket by Justin Mitchell and a three-point play by Jenkins gave Tusculum a 63-58 lead with 2:32 to go, but Dye responded as Queens trailed 63-60 with two minutes left.
The Pioneers, who entered the game as the top offensive rebounding team in Division II at 18.75 per game, grabbed a pair of offensive boards on Tusculum's next possession which led to two free throws from Jenkins and a 65-60 lead with 1:27 remaining. The Pioneers would further extend the clock as Gibson grabbed a Jenkins miss with under a minute to go, and Queens would get no closer than 65-61 as Tusculum's Dillon Smith canned two free throws with 12.1 seconds left to set the final margin.
Tusculum's Caleb Hodnett contributed six points in 18 minutes off the bench, all in the second half, while Smith and Cameron King each tallied four points in a reserve role for the Pioneers. King, who played 12 minutes, also had four rebounds, three blocked shots and a pair of steals during his stint.
Taylor was perfect from the field for Queens, hitting all five of his field-goal attempts including a pair of three-pointers in 17 minutes off the bench. Josh Brodowicz had seven points and five assists in 23 minutes off the bench for the Royals, whose reserves outscored the Pioneers by a slim 24-22 margin.
Tusculum will return to action in two weeks, when the Pioneers host Anderson on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 4 p.m. at Pioneer Arena.