Tale of two halves as Pioneers fall 67-58 at Coker

Tale of two halves as Pioneers fall 67-58 at Coker

HARTSVILLE, S.C. --- The Coker University men's basketball team out-scored Tusculum University 37-14 in the second half including 27-8 in the final 12:35 as the Cobras rallied to a 67-58 South Atlantic Conference victory Saturday afternoon at the DeLoach Center.

Coker (3-9, 2-6 SAC) snapped an eight-game losing streak with the victory while Tusculum dropped its second straight game to fall to 10-6 overall and 5-3 in the league.

Royce Hunter led the Cobras with 24 points including five 3-pointers while Dakota Jennings contributed 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

TU junior Brandon Mitchell posted his fourth double-double of the year with his 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Caleb Hodnett and Dillon tallied 13 and 10 points, respectively in the loss.

It was a tale of two halves for the Pioneers. Tusculum shot a sizzling 17-of-27 from the field (63%) in the first half to take a 44-30 lead at the intermission. But in the final 20 minutes, the Pioneers went 6-of-32 from the floor (19%), 0-for-9 from three-point territory and would go without a field for the final 4:21 of the game.

Meanwhile, Coker finished the game shooting 48.9 percent from the floor (23-of-47) with seven treys, while also going 14-of-16 at the free throw line including 10-of-11 in the second half and six in a row in the final 24 seconds.

Tusculum opened the game on a 20-9 run making six of its first seven field goal tries in the initial 7:29 of the contest.  The lead grew to 13 points at 30-17 before the Cobras went on an 8-2 run to trim the deficit to 32-25 with 5:32 on the clock.

The Pioneers responded with a 7-0 run including a three-point play by Mitchell at the 2:53 mark of the half to lead 39-25.  A free throw by TU freshman DyQuavis Wilkins with 42 seconds left gave the visitors their largest lead of the day at 44-29 before setting for a 44-30 advantage at the intermission.

Tusculum missed its first five shots to start the second half before Smith snapped the drought with a steal and basket for a 46-34 TU lead with 16:52 left in the game.  Two free throws by Coker's Williams Onyeodi and a Jennings' layup trimmed the lead to 46-38.

TU sophomore Trenton Gibson hit a layup with 12:35 to go as Tusculum led 50-40.  The Cobras went on a 11-0 run over the next 4:07 and took the lead on a Hunter jumper for a 51-50 Coker advantage with 8:28 on the scoreboard. The Pioneers regained the lead on a Mitchell steal to set up a Hodnett fastbreak layup as TU led 52-51 with 7:22 remaining. A Jennings' layup and a Hunter triple gave the Cobras a 56-52 lead with 5:44 to go.

A Gibson offensive rebound and putback followed by a three-point play from Mitchell gave the Pioneers the lead again at 57-56 with 4:02 left, but would prove to be TU's final time ahead.

The Pioneers would miss their final nine field goal attempts as Coker closed out the game on an 11-1 run over the final two minutes for the victory.

Coker's bench out-scored Tusculum by a 19-7 margin while TU held a 31-23 advantage on the boards including 15-7 on the offensive glass, but resulting in only 8 second-chance points.

Gibson would finish the game with nine points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals, while TU leading scorer Tariq Jenkins was limited to five points on 1-of-10 shooting.

Tusculum will close out its three-game road swing on Wednesday with a trip to Jefferson City to face arch-rival Carson-Newman. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. at C-N's Holt Fieldhouse.