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Smith stays hot, Pioneers down Cavs 78-68 for third straight win

Smith stays hot, Pioneers down Cavs 78-68 for third straight win

WISE, Va. --- Dillon Smith scored a career-high 22 points, while Caleb Hodnett and Brandon Mitchell each posted a double-double as the Tusculum Pioneers defeated UVa-Wise 78-68 Wednesday night at the Prior Center in South Atlantic Conference men's basketball action.

Tusculum (14-9, 9-6 SAC) extends its winning streak to three in a row, while completing the season sweep over the Cavaliers (5-16, 1-14 SAC) in their inaugural SAC campaign.

The Pioneers, who have never trailed during their current three-game winning streak, connected on 10 three-pointers on the night, including a career-best 5 treys by Smith. He finished the night shooting 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and went 5-of-7 from the charity stripe, halting his free throw streak at 25 in a row.

Hodnett tallied season-highs with 18 points and 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the season and fifth of his career. He also notched a season-best four steals and buried four 3-pointers.

Mitchell accounted for his team-best eighth double-double of the year with his 10 points and 12 rebounds.  The league's top shot-blocker also added three rejections to his season total of 54, moving him into a tie for second place with Santana Waldon (54 in 1990-91). Mitchell also moved into third place in TU history with 128 career blocks.

Trenton Gibson added 14 points and a game-high eight assists against just one turnover in his 36 minutes on the court.  TU senior Tariq Jenkins returned to the hardwood after a one-week absence due to injury as he finished with seven points and two assists in his 22 minutes of play.

Cameron Whiteside led the Cavs with his 21 points, while Chance Sheffey added 13 points including the 1000th of his career.  Briggs Parris, who poured in a career-best 36 points against the Pioneers in November, was held to 11 markers in Wednesday's rematch.

Tusculum broke up a 6-6 tie early going on a 13-2 run capped by six straight points by Mitchell including a dunk at the 10:55 mark as TU led 19-8.

Wise followed with four straight points to trim the deficit to seven at 19-12 before the Pioneers got four points from freshman DyQuavis Wilkins for a 23-12 TU lead with 8:25 remaining before halftime. 

The Cavs got consecutive buckets from Yesid Mosquera-Perea and Izeah Parker to trim the TU advantage back to seven (23-16) with 7:27 on the clock.

The Pioneers answered with a 12-5 spurt including a 6-0 run as Gibson buried a baseline triple and Smith converted a three-point play as the Pioneers took a 35-21 lead with 2:49 on the scoreboard.

Whiteside scored five straight points on a three-point play and two free throws to trim the deficit back to single digits at 35-26. But the Pioneers closed out the half with six straight markers, including a triple by Smith and a jumper from Gibson as Tusculum went into the locker room in front at 41-26.

The Cavs opened the second half with four straight points to whittle the TU lead to 41-30, 1:03 into the second half.  Hodnett and Parris exchanged three-pointers before the Pioneers scored eight straight which including another three-pointer by Hodnett and five points by Smith, including a trey as TU led 52-33 with 16:46 left.

Tusculum would extend the lead to as much as 62-41 thanks to a Jenkins' three-point play with 12:50 to go. But the Cavaliers would not go away as they answered with a 19-8 run over a span of 6:37 to get back within 10 at 70-60 following a Parris three-pointer with 6:13 left on the clock.

The teams traded buckets again before Gibson scored his 14th point of the game on his jumper with 3:07 left for a TU 74-62 lead.  Whiteside answered with a layup 19 seconds later to get Wise back to within 10. The Pioneers would come up empty on its next two possessions which included a turnover and a missed three-pointer. Wise got to the free throw line both times, but went 1-of-2 in each of their trips to trim the deficit 74-66 with 1:35 left.

Smith's fifth trey of the night would be the dagger with his triple at the 1:10 mark as Tusculum led by double digits again and would hold on for the win in their first trip to Wise since 2003.

Tusculum finished the night shooting 48 percent from the floor (29-of-61), including 10-of-23 from three-point territory for 44 percent.  Wise went 23-of-51 for 45 percent including 14-of-28 in the second half as the Cavs made their run.

The Pioneers will return home on Saturday and host defending South Atlantic Conference champion Queens University of Charlotte (15-6, 10-5 SAC) for a 4 p.m. contest. TU upset the nationally-ranked Royals in the season's first meeting, 67-61 in December.  Queens is tied for second place in the league, while the Pioneers are one-game behind in fourth place.






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