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First half run sparks Catawba to 82-75 win over Tusculum

First half run sparks Catawba to 82-75 win over Tusculum

SALISBURY, N.C. --- The Catawba Indians placed five players in double figure scoring and used a 20-3 run in the first half en route to an 82-75 South Atlantic Conference men's basketball victory over the Tusculum Pioneers Saturday afternoon at Goodman Gym.

Catawba (12-6, 7-5 SAC) snaps a four-game losing streak and remains in a three-way tie for third place in the league standings. The Indians also complete the season sweep over the Pioneers (11-9, 6-6 SAC), who suffer their fifth loss in their last six outings and fall into a tie for sixth place in the league.

Catawba's Devin Cooper scored a game-high 20 points while shooting 5-of-9 from the floor including 4-of-6 from three-point territory and 6-of-6 at the charity stripe.  Marcell Haskett went 8-of-8 from the charity stripe to finish with 16 markers, while the trio of Larry McLeod, Malik Constantine and Daquan Lilly each had 10 points for the home team.

Tusculum senior Tariq Jenkins had team-bests with 18 points, four rebounds and five assists. Dillon Smith posted 16 points, while Trenton Gibson and Joshua Scott tallied 13 points apiece in the loss.

With the score tied 17-17 at the 11:43 mark of the first period, the Pioneers went on a 9-2 run on two treys by Scott and a triple from Smith as Tusculum led 26-19 with 10:09 on the clock.

Catawba's 20-3 run over an eight-minute span as the Pioneers went 1-of-6 from the field and committed six turnovers during the drought.  Meanwhile, six different Catawba players scored during the 20-3 run, going 7-of-10 from the field with three 3-pointers including Cooper's triple at the 2:25 mark for a 39-29 lead for the Indians.

Tusculum outscored Catawba 6-2 in the final 1:43 to trail 41-35 at the intermission.  Despite the scoring slump, TU managed to shoot 14-of-26 from the floor with 5-of-10 from beyond the arch and 2-of-2 at the line.  Meanwhile, the Indians shot 52 percent (13-of-25) with six treys and 9-of-10 from the free throw stripe.

The Pioneers scored the first two baskets of the second half to trim the deficit to 41-39 following a bucket by Caleb Hodnett, who was playing in his 100th career game on Saturday.  But the Indians responded with a 16-3 spurt over the next 4:12 to take their largest lead of the game at 57-42 with 13:30 remaining following a Ben Zemonek layup.

Tusculum would chip away again at the Catawba lead and trimmed it to single digits at 59-50 after a Gibson three-pointer with 10:24 left.  Zaqwuan Mathews answered with a triple of his own to push the lead back to a dozen (62-50) with 9:12 left.

The Pioneers scored six unanswered on back-to-back layups from Jenkins and one from Gibson as TU trailed 62-56 with 8:17 to go.

With Catawba leading 64-58 with under eight minutes left, the Indians notched five straight points to lead 69-58 with 4:55 on the clock. TU put together an 8-2 run which was capped by a pair of Jenkins' free throws as the Pioneers trailed 71-66 with 3:09 remaining.

The Indians missed two shots on its ensuing possession, but came away with two offensive boards forcing TU to foul. Haskett made his two free throw to increase the lead to 73-66 with 2:32 to go.

The Pioneers missed a layup, but Jenkins came away with a steal to set up a Brandon Mitchell jumper as TU trailed again by five (73-68) with 1:57 on the clock.

The Pioneers fouled again and Haskett made two more free throws again for a 75-68 advantage. Both teams would miss shots on their next possessions, but Smith drilled a three-pointer with 54 seconds left as the Pioneers cut the deficit to 75-71.

Haskett was fouled and he connected on his two free throws with 50 seconds left. Mitchell made a layup with 27 seconds left to make the score 77-73 Catawba.

The Pioneers would miss its next two field goal tries and Devin Cooper made four straight free throws to seal the victory for the Indians.

Catawba took advantage of their 34 trips to the free throw line, going 29-of-34 (85.3%) with 13 in a row and 14-of-15 in the final 3:42.  Tusculum was whistled for a season-high 28 fouls on the afternoon including five of the offensive variety.  Catawba was called for 15 total fouls resulting in 10 trips to the charity stripe for the visitors.

Tusculum finished the game shooting 51.7 percent from the floor with seven 3-pointers. Catawba went 22-of-46 from the field for 48 percent including 9-of-20 from the three-point line (45%).  The Indians also owned a 37-22 advantage on the boards, as the Pioneers were out-rebounded for only the second time this year and were held to a season-low in total rebounds.

TU out-scored Catawba by a 42-24 margin in points in the paint and the Pioneers held a 19-7 advantage in fast-break points.

Tusculum returns to action on Wednesday when they travel to Hickory, North Carolina to face Lenoir-Rhyne for a 7:30 p.m. contest from Shuford Memorial Gymnasium. TU defeated the Bears 70-58 in November's conference opener in Greeneville.






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