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Pioneers defeat Lincoln Memorial 76-72 in SAC opener

Pioneers defeat Lincoln Memorial 76-72 in SAC opener

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Mia Long scored a season-high 23 points and Tusculum withstood a late run from Lincoln Memorial to come away with a 76-72 win in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action at Pioneer Arena Wednesday evening.

Martoria Patton registered a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds as the Pioneers (6-1, 1-0 SAC) won their fifth straight home game and snapped a four-game losing streak to the defending SAC champion Railsplitters (3-3, 0-1 SAC).

Four players reached double figures for Lincoln Memorial, led by Shea Coker and Emily Griffith with 18 points apiece. Karsen Sims and Rachel Griffith added 10 points apiece for LMU, which trailed by as many as 13 points late in the third quarter before pulling within a bucket four times in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the game.

Long shot 7-for-10 from the field, including 2-for-4 from three-point range, and went 7-for-12 from the foul line to reach double figures for the fourth time this season. Her six rebounds were also a season high, helping Tusculum outrebound Lincoln Memorial by a 46-39 margin in the game.

The Pioneers bolted to a 10-2 lead after three minutes, and led 13-7 behind six points from Long with 5:35 left in the first quarter. A three-pointer by Sydney Wilson extended the Tusculum lead to 16-11 with 2:48 to go in the quarter, but LMU came back on baskets by Emily Griffith and Maggie Jachimczuk to pull within 16-15 with 44 seconds to play in the period. Long capped the quarter with an offhand toss on the run from 25 feet as time ran out to give her 12 points in the period and Tusculum a 21-15 lead.

Lincoln Memorial opened the second quarter by scoring seven straight points to take its first lead of the game at 22-21 on a three-pointer by Rachel Griffith. A field-goal drought of nearly three minutes by both teams was snapped on a Patton basket with 4:01 to go in the half which gave Tusculum a 33-31 lead. After Sims hit two free throws to tie the game for the fifth time in the quarter at 33-33, Maddie Sutton drained a three-pointer to give Tusculum a lead that it would not give up at 36-33 with 3:23 to go in the half.

Tusculum led 42-35 at halftime as Long led all players with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field in the first half. Patton added six points and nine rebounds for the Pioneers, who shot an even 50 percent (16-for-32) from the field and connected on 5-for-12 from three-point range as a team. Coker paced the Railsplitters with nine points while Emily Griffith had eight points and four rebounds, as LMU shot 13-for-31 (41.9 percent) from the floor and was outrebounded 21-15 by the Pioneers in the half.

The Pioneer lead grew to nine points at 46-37 on a layup by Patton with 8:11 to go in the third quarter, while the Tusculum defense held Lincoln Memorial without a field goal for a span of more than 6 1/2 minutes. The Pioneer lead hit double figures at 56-44 on a three-pointer by Jalia Arnwine with 2:53 to go in the quarter, and Tusculum reached its largest lead of the night at 60-47 on a putback by Jasmine Williams with 53 seconds to play in the period.

Tusculum carried a 60-50 lead into the fourth quarter, and continued to hold a 10-point lead after a pair of foul shots gave the Pioneers a 67-57 lead with 6:37 remaining. However, the Railsplitters went on a 9-2 run to pull within two points on a three-pointer by Rachel Griffith with 4:32 remaining. The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes before Patton made two free throw to put the Pioneers on top 74-70 with 2:12 left.

A basket from Coker cut the Tusculum lead to 74-72 with 1:04 left, and the Railsplitters had two shots for the tie in the final 50 seconds that were off the mark. Callie Patterson gave the Pioneers breathing room by hitting two free throws with 15.1 seconds left to set the final score.

Patton shot 5-for-5 from the field and 4-for-6 from the foul line, while grabbing seven of her 12 rebounds on the offensive glass. Williams was productive off the bench for the Pioneers with five points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals in just seven minutes of action. Sutton finished with a season-high 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting and had three rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes.

Overall, Tusculum's bench outscored the Lincoln Memorial bench by a 32-12 margin, as Wilson connected on a pair of three-pointers and finished with eight points and four rebounds for the Pioneers. Arnwine had a solid night as well with five points and three rebounds in nine minutes of playing time.

Lincoln Memorial shot 16-for-22 from the foul line (72.7 percent) in the game while Tusculum was 17-for-28 (60.7 percent) at the stripe. The Pioneers connected on seven three-pointers as a team, while the Railsplitters were 4-for-12 from beyond the arc. Tusculum committed 22 turnovers in the game, leading to 16 points for LMU, while the Railsplitters had 17 turnovers which the Pioneers converted into 15 points.

Tusculum will remain home to play Queens University of Charlotte in a SAC game starting at 2 p.m. Saturday at Pioneer Arena.

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