GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Following a two-week respite from South Atlantic Conference action, the Tusculum University women's basketball team returns to face Anderson University in a key league matchup Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
The Pioneers (9-2, 4-1 SAC) played their last conference game on Saturday, Dec. 21 at Queens, winning by a score of 71-55 for their third straight victory. The Trojans (9-2, 4-1 SAC), ranked 19th in the latest WBCA Division II poll, have not played since defeating Erskine 76-42 in a non-conference matchup on Monday, Dec. 16.
Tusculum and Anderson are tied for second place in the SAC with their 4-1 league records, trailing unbeaten Catawba (9-0, 4-0 SAC) which hosts Wingate and Carson-Newman in its return to action this week.
RECAPPING THE BREAK
The Pioneers received a season-high 22 points from Kasey Johnson and 16 points and 13 rebounds from Maddie Sutton in a 71-55 win at Queens on Dec. 21. The Pioneers forced the Royals into 32 turnovers, but shot just 2-for-28 from three-point range including a stretch of 24 consecutive misses.
On Tuesday, Dec. 31 the Pioneers hosted Alice Lloyd in an exhibition game and defeated the Eagles 72-64. Jasmine Williams led the Pioneers with 17 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots in 26 minutes off the bench, while Mia Long had 14 points, 10 rebounds, eight steals and five assists and Sutton posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
Anderson, which was the overwhelming favorite to defend its SAC regular-season and tournament championships from a year ago, won its first four games before falling 77-70 at Lander on Nov. 19. The Trojans then beat Queens (73-49), Virginia-Wise (64-62) and Carson-Newman (77-74) to open league play before a stunning 58-56 overtime loss at Newberry on Dec. 11. The Trojans have since beaten Lenoir-Rhyne (71-48) and Erskine to head into break with a modest two-game winning streak.
Reigning SAC Player of the Year Alexy Mollenhauer leads the Trojans and ranks second in the SAC at 18.9 points per game. Mollenhauer has scored in double figures nine times in 11 games and has four double-doubles, including 24 points and 18 rebounds against Alabama Huntsville and 16 points and 19 boards at Queens. The senior guard leads the SAC with 29 three-pointers and is third in rebounding at 11.3 per game.
Junior forward Taylor Hair also averages double figures for the Trojans, checking in at 10.1 points per game. Senior guard Madison Baggett averages 8.3 points per game and is among the SAC leaders in assists at 4.6 per contest. As a team, Anderson leads the SAC in rebound average (48.5 rpg), rebound margin (+16.5 per game) and blocked shots per game (4.9) and is second in points allowed per game (58.0).
Anderson leads the all-time series with Tusculum by an 18-7 margin, including four consecutive victories. Tusculum's last win over Anderson came on Jan. 18, 2018 at Pioneer Arena by a score of 74-51. Since joining the SAC for the 2010-11 season, the Trojans have won 14 of the 18 regular-season meetings with the Pioneers.
Long continues to lead the Pioneers in scoring at 14.2 points per game, ranking her 10th in the SAC, while her field goal percentage of 52.3 percent is fifth-best in the league. Long also leads the conference in steals per game (3.6) and is fifth in assists per game at 3.5.
Sydney Wilson, who needs 18 points to become the 18th player in program history to score 1,000 career points, has scored in double figures in five straight games and is second on the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game. Johnson is up to 11.4 points per game and is seventh in the conference in three-point percentage at 42.4 percent (14-for-33). Sutton is second in the SAC in free-throw percentage at 87.1 percent (27-for-31) and is 12th in rebounding with a team-high 7.1 per game.
As a team, the Pioneers lead the conference in fewest turnovers per game (14.9) and steals per game (13.1), while ranking third in three-pointers made (7.3 per game) and scoring defense (60.4 ppg).
FOLLOW THE GAME
Brian Stayton and Justin Jeffers describe all the action of Tusculum women's basketball on the Pioneer Sports Network. Fans can listen to the games locally on WSMG Radio at 95.5 FM and 1450 AM, and on-line at jewel955.com. The Pioneer Pre-Game show begins 15 minutes before tip-off, at 1:45 p.m. Saturday before the Anderson contest. Live video and live stats links are also available at www.TusculumPioneers.com.