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December schedule opens Saturday as Pioneers visit Newberry

December schedule opens Saturday as Pioneers visit Newberry

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- With just three regular-season games on its December schedule, the Tusculum University women's basketball team will try to maintain the momentum from a 6-2 November as the Pioneers prepare for a matchup with Newberry College on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. at Eleazer Arena in Newberry, South Carolina.

The Pioneers spilt their two games last week, which straddled the Thanksgiving holiday. On Tuesday, Tusculum beat Lenoir-Rhyne 66-49 in its South Atlantic Conference opener before falling 78-71 to Catawba on Saturday at Pioneer Arena.

Saturday's game will be just the third true road game of the season for the Pioneers, who have not played away from Pioneer Arena since a 75-55 loss to nationally-ranked North Georgia on Nov. 16. Tusculum, which is 3-1 in road/neutral site games this year, dropped from third to sixth in the D2SIDA Southeast Region poll following last Saturday's loss to Catawba.

RECAPPING THE WEEK
The Pioneers used a 12-0 run over a five-minute span of the first half to take control against Lenoir-Rhyne, went on to defeat the Bears 66-49 in their SAC opener last Tuesday. The Pioneers received a game-high 16 points from Sydney Wilson along with 12 points and eight rebounds from Maddie Sutton to defeat the Bears for the fifth consecutive meeting.

Senior guard Mia Long overcame first-half foul trouble to finish with 11 points, four rebounds, five assists and five steals for the Pioneers, who led 35-20 at halftime and by as many as 20 points in the third quarter. Tusculum outrebounded Lenoir-Rhyne 48-37 and forced the Bears into 21 turnovers, while scoring 24 fast-break points in the victory.

Against Catawba, the Indians shot 62 percent from the field in the second half and forced the Pioneers into a season-high 24 turnovers. The Indians finished the game at 49.2 percent (30-for-61) from the field including nine three-pointers.

Long led the Pioneers with a game-high 21 points along with four rebounds, four assists and five steals. Kasey Johnson became the 17th player in program history to surpass 1,000 career points, and finished the game with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, one shy of her career high. Wilson added 16 points and four steals for the Pioneers, who shot 42.9 percent (21-for-49) from the field and outrebounded the Indians by a 43-34 margin.

LOOKING AHEAD
Newberry (4-3, 1-1 SAC) kicked off SAC play with a 73-55 loss at Catawba last Tuesday, followed by a 69-42 win at Mars Hill on Saturday. The Wolves were led by Keli Romas who had 15 points in the loss to Catawba and 12 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Mars Hill. Talia Roberts had 15 points off the bench against Mars Hill, with the Wolves outrebounding the Lions 53-29 in the win.

The Wolves are 1-2 at home, including a 96-95 loss in triple overtime to Limestone in their last home game on Nov. 16. Romas led the Wolves with 30 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

Romas, a junior forward, transferred to Newberry from NAIA member Lyon College. She is tied for eighth in the SAC in scoring at 14.0 points per game, is tenth in rebounding at 7.1 boards per game, ranks fourth in assists at 3.4 per game and is second in free-throw percentage at 84.8 percent (28-for-33). She has scored in double figures six times in seven games for the Wolves.

Also averaging in double figures for Newberry are senior guard Kelsey McDermott (11.0 ppg) and Roberts (10.9 ppg), a junior guard. Roberts and freshman guard/forward Courtney Virgo share the team lead with 12 three-pointers for the Wolves, who rank last in the conference by committing 23.6 turnovers per game.

Tusculum leads the all-time series over Newberry by a 26-23 margin, including a sweep of last year's two meetings. The Pioneers won 71-63 on the road last Feb. 2 to snap a 10-game losing streak at Eleazer Arena dating to a 68-60 overtime win on Jan. 23, 2008. The Pioneers have won three of the last four meetings with the Wolves after dropping seven straight from Feb. 15, 2014 through Feb. 18, 2017.

LEADER BOARD
Long ranks 11th in the SAC in points per game with an average of 13.6 per contest. She is sixth in field-goal percentage at 54.3 percent and ninth in foul shooting at 76.2 percent. Long is tied for the SAC lead with 3.6 steals per game, and has 16 steals over the last three games for the Pioneers.

Wilson is 13th in the league at 12.2 points per game and shares the team lead in three-pointers with Johnson at 12 apiece. Johnson ranks fifth in the conference in three-point percentage at 46.2 percent (12-for-26) and is 15-for-17 at the free-throw line through eight games.

As a team, the Pioneers are fourth in the SAC in both scoring offense and defense, scoring 75.9 points per game while allowing 59.6 per contest. Tusculum is second to Catawba by forcing 23.8 turnovers per game, and the Pioneers are third in the conference in foul shooting at 72.5 percent behind Carson-Newman (74.3 percent) and Newberry (73.7).

FOLLOW THE GAME
Brian Stayton will describe all the action of Tusculum women's basketball on the Pioneer Sports Network. Fans can listen to the game locally on WSMG Radio at 95.5 FM and 1450 AM, and on-line at www.TusculumPioneers.com. The Pioneer Pre-Game show begins Saturday at 1:45 p.m., 15 minutes before tip-off between the Pioneers and Wolves. Live video and live stats links are available at www.TusculumPioneers.com.

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