Pioneers use defense, first half run to down Wingate 75-53

Pioneers use defense, first half run to down Wingate 75-53

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University men's basketball team opened the game with a 26-8 run and led wire-to-wire as the Pioneers defeated Wingate University 75-53 Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena.

Eleven (11) Tusculum players found their way into the scoring column as the Pioneers posted its largest win over the Bulldogs in 46 meetings between the two South Atlantic Conference foes.

Tusculum (11-7, 6-4 SAC) records its third straight win over Wingate (7-9, 3-7 SAC) while snapping a three-game losing streak of its own. TU also improves to 5-1 at home this season.

Tusculum senior Dillon Smith led all scorers with his 14 points while Caleb Hodnett added 13 markers and nine rebounds as he went 5-of-9 from the floor and connected on all three of his 3-point tries.  Freshman Joshua Scott tallied 11 points off the bench, while rookie teammate Keaston Brown tallied season-bests with eight points and six rebounds in his 19 minutes of play.  All 15 players on the active Tusculum roster saw action for the Black and Orange.

Wingate's Jarren Cottingham scored a team-best 12 points, while Jakob Dawkins finished with 10 points and five rebounds in the loss.

Tusculum dominated the boards, out-rebounding the visitors by a 54-37 margin, including 21-11 on the offensive glass, but could only muster 9 second-chance points.

The Pioneers scored the first seven points of the game, while Wingate missed its first five shots in the opening five minutes of the contest.  WU got a layup from Cottingham and a trey from Dawkins to trim the deficit to 7-5. Tusculum answered with a 16-1 spurt including an 11-0 run to increase its lead to 23-6 at the 8:14 mark following a jumper from Brown.

Tusculum would lead by as much as 18 points on two occasions in the first half before settling for a 36-20 lead at the intermission.

Wingate got a dunk from Quantra Taylor to open the second half to cut the TU to 14 (36-22), but would be as close as the Bulldogs would get for the remainder of the fray.  The Pioneers would answer with a 13-5 run to lead 49-27 after a Hodnett layup with 14:03 remaining. TU would take its largest lead of the afternoon at 59-32 following a Justin Mitchell basket with 9:18 to go.

The Bulldogs trimmed the deficit under 20 points twice down the stretch before the Pioneers settled in for the 22-point victory, surpassing its 2010 margin of victory over Wingate in a 87-67 victory in Greeneville.

Tusculum junior Brandon Mitchell was held to four points and four rebounds, but he dished out three assists, recorded three steals and tallied four blocked shots. Tariq Jenkins and Trenton Gibson each accounted for seven points in the win.

The Tusculum defense held its third opponent under 60 points this year as the Bulldogs shot 26.9 percent from the floor. TU was held under 40 percent shooting going 27-of-68 for 39.7 percent.

The Pioneers will host third-ranked Lincoln Memorial University on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. contest. TU knocked off the Railsplitters in their last meeting, a 78-76 victory, ending a 24-game losing streak to LMU.  This year's LMU squad leads the conference and is riding a 17-game winning streak.