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Pioneers to open season Friday night at Belmont Abbey

Pioneers to open season Friday night at Belmont Abbey

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's basketball team will rely on continuity when it opens its 2018-19 season on Friday, Nov. 9 at Belmont Abbey in the South Atlantic Conference/Conference Carolinas Challenge.

The Pioneers have 12 players on the roster from last year's squad which went 16-11 overall and earned the program's first SAC Championship Tournament berth since 2013. The Pioneers went 11-9 in the SAC last year and captured the sixth seed in the conference tournament before being eliminated in the quarterfinals by Anderson.

Four of last year's starters will be back in the lineup for fourth-year head coach Devan Carter on opening night, led by the backcourt of senior Sydney Wilson and junior Mia Long and a frontcourt that includes seniors Yolizma Cupidan and Martoria Patton.

Wilson led the Pioneers in scoring last season at 14.2 points per game, ranking her ninth in the conference. Wilson led the SAC with 2.7 three-pointers per game and made 72 total three-pointers during the season. The 5-9 shooting guard from Greensboro, North Carolina started the final 18 games for the Pioneers and scored in double figures in 17 of them, including the final 12 in a row, and averaged 15.0 points per game as a starter. Wilson was second on the Pioneers in free-throw shooting at 77.0 percent, which ranked her ninth in the final SAC regular-season statistics. In conference games only, Wilson was the league's seventh leading scorer at 14.5 points per game and increased her three-pointers per game average to 2.8 per contest.

Wilson made at least one three-pointer in 26 of the Pioneers' 27 games, and reached double figures 24 times. On Feb. 19 against Wingate, she became the eighth player in school history to sink 100 career three-pointers. Wilson made four or more three-pointers in a game eight times and had two or more in a game 19 times last season.

A three-year starter for the Pioneers, Wilson is averaging 11.0 points per game and 2.4 rebounds per contest in 72 career games (54 starts). Wilson will enter her senior season with 795 career points and eighth on the career three-pointers list with 107. Wilson also has 111 career steals after setting a career-high this season with 44 thefts.

Cupidan started all 27 games for the Pioneers and averaged 9.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. She was second on the team and ranked sixth in the SAC with 1.9 steals per game, and scored in double figures 12 times. Cupidan, a 8-5 native of Ocoee, Florida and a transfer from Florida State College at Jacksonville, scored a season-high 20 points against King on Nov. 11, and had 13 games with at least two steals or more, including five against Queens on Dec. 2.

Patton also started all 27 games at post and averaged 4.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. The 5-9Nashville, Tennessee native posted her lone double-double of the season against Lincoln Memorial on Nov. 29, with season highs of 14 points and 12 rebounds. Patton, a transfer from Walters State, finished in double figures in rebounding four times, and her average of 2.8 offensive rebounds per game placed her fourth in the conference behind three All-Conference players.

Long was the fourth Pioneer to start each game last year, and the Concordia (Michigan) transfer made an immediate impact by averaging 10.8 points per game and a team-high 3.7 assists per contest. Long also led the team and ranked second in the conference with 2.6 steals per game, which included at least one steal in 24 of the Pioneers' 27 games. Long scored in double figures 15 times, scoring a season-high 23 points against Lincoln Memorial on Nov. 29 and shooting 10-for-11 from the field against Mars Hill in a 20-point effort on Feb. 7.

One key member of the Tusculum lineup who will not be on the court this season is rising senior Kasey Johnson. A two-time honorable All-SAC performer, Johnson average 12.1 points per game and shot 44.2 percent from three-point range a year ago. The 6-foot native of Greensboro, North Carolina will take a medical redshirt and return next year needing 76 points to reach 1,000 for her Pioneer career.

Among the veterans guards who contributed off the bench last season are seniors Callie Patterson and Lovely Locklear, and sophomore Jalia Arnwine.

Patterson has started and come off the bench during her first three seasons with the Pioneers. The 5-7 Greensboro, North Carolina native averaged 14.3 minutes per game off the bench a year ago and contributed 5.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game, while ranking fourth on the team with 20 made three-pointers. Patterson scored a season-high 20 points in a win over Mars Hill on Feb. 7. She is averaging 7.1 points per game in 61 career contests (21 starts) and opens her senior year with 433 career points.

Locklear, a 5-8 transfer from Gardner-Webb, averaged 6.9 points per game last season and was fourth on the team with 41 steals. Locklear started the season averaged 11.8 points over her first six games, including a 25-point performance against King on Nov. 11, then got hot down the stretch as the Durham, North Carolina product averaged 10.6 points per game in the last seven games, reaching double figures five times.

Arnwine will be looked upon for a bigger contribution to the Pioneers' this season, after averaging 7.8 minutes and 2.4 points per game in 20 games a year ago. Arnwine's top performance was a 15-point effort at Mars Hill on Jan. 3, and the 5-6 Knoxville, Tennessee product was steady on defense with 16 steals in her first 14 games.

Joining Tusculum this season at guard are junior transfer Katelyn Weems and freshmen Marta Rodrigues, Ericah Burton and Aubrey Monroe.

Weems, who played her high school ball at nearby North Greene High School, returns home after playing two seasons at Division I UNC Wilmington. With the Seahawks, the 5-9 Weems appeared in 13 games and scored 14 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 at the foul line.

Rodrigues, a 5-6 native of Lisbon, Portugal, played prep ball at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga where she averaged 12 points and three assists per game. Burton, a 5-6 native of Bluff, Virginia, scored more than 1,000 points at Richlands High School and averaged 24 points a game as a senior. The 5-4 Malone is from Watkinsville, Georgia and played her prep ball at North Oconee High School, where she was twice named team MVP.

In the frontcourt, support will be provided by senior Kendrea Duke, along with junior Jasmine Williams, sophomore Maddie Sutton and junior Deniz Dalkiran.

Duke joined the lineup in early January and contributed 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 15 games. The 6-foot senior from Hendersonville, Tennessee by way of Volunteer State scored in double figures seven times, including 19 points and a season-best 10 rebounds against Catawba on Jan. 27, and shot 75.5 percent from the foul line despite a shoulder injury that caused her to shoot one-handed.

Williams has appeared in 34 games for the Pioneers across her first two season, averaging 1.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocked shots per game. The 6-2 Morristown, Tennessee native recorded season highs of five points and five rebounds against Lincoln Memorial on Nov. 29, and blocked three shots in six minutes at Mars Hill on Jan. 3.

Sutton made an impact in her collegiate debut with nine points and 13 rebounds against Converse, and wound up in double figures on the boards four times en route to season averages of 4.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. A 6-footer from Walland, Tennessee, Sutton scored 11 points against Coker on Dec. 13 and Anderson on Feb. 21, and shot 77.6 percent from the foul line while drilling nine three-pointers in 28 attempts.

Dalkiran, who transferred from Western Nebraska CC, appeared in 12 games off the bench for the Pioneers last season, scoring a total of 10 points and grabbing 24 rebounds. Dalkiran had four points, five rebounds and three blocks against Mars Hill on Feb. 7, and the 6-4 native of Istanbul, Turkey had at least one block in six of her 12 games.

Freshman Mya Belton, at 5-10, can play both big guard and small forward, and scored 1,133 points with 614 rebounds, 205 blocks and 198 steals at Westwood High School in Blytheville, South Carolina.

After opening the season with games at Belmont Abbey against the host Crusaders and against King, the Pioneers will visit Clayton State on Thursday, Nov. 15 before playing their home opener on Monday, Nov. 19 against Virginia State. The SAC opener is Wednesday, Nov. 28 at Anderson.

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