GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's basketball team will take to the road this week for a pair of games against South Atlantic Conference opponents. The Pioneers will visit Mars Hill on Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 5:30 p.m. and trek to Coker to face the Cobras on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 2 p.m.
The Pioneers (9-3, 4-2 SAC) lost for the first time since Nov. 30 on Saturday, when 19th-ranked Anderson handed Tusculum a 56-47 loss at Pioneer Arena. The defeat dropped the Pioneers into a three-way tie for third place in the SAC standings with Carson-Newman and Wingate, trailing Catawba and Anderson who share the lead at 5-1 in league play.
Tusculum is 5-1 in road/neutral games this season, and will attempt to open its SAC schedule with three consecutive road wins for the first time since joining the conference for the 1999-00 season. Prior to this season, the Pioneers had last won its first two road conference games of the season during the 2015-16 campaign, with victories at Catawba (54-51) and Wingate (57-56).
RECAPPING THE WEEK
The Pioneers shot 27.5 percent from the field and fell 56-47 to 19th-ranked Anderson on Saturday at Pioneer Arena. Reigning SAC Player of the Year Alexy Mollenhauer led the Trojans with 30 points and 12 rebounds, including 6-for-10 from three-point range, as Anderson led by nine and the half and by as many as 15 points in the second half. Sydney Wilson led Tusculum with 16 points, leaving her two points shy of becoming the 18th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points.
As a team, the Pioneers shot 4-for-24 from three-point range against Anderson and are 6-for-52 from beyond the arc over the last two games. The Pioneer bench combined for 21 points in the loss to Anderson, led by Jasmine Williams who had five points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in 16 minutes of action.
Mars Hill (2-10, 0-6 SAC) dropped its fourth in a row on Saturday with a 64-48 loss at Wingate. De'Ja Marshall led the Lions with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Alexis Pardue added 13 points and six boards, but the Lions shot 28.6 percent (16-for-56) from the field and committed 22 turnovers. Prior to the holiday break, the Lions fell to Coker (74-66), Catawba (94-57) and Carson-Newman (106-44). The Lions' victories came in non-conference road games at Warren Wilson (65-54) on Nov. 22 and at Bluefield State (73-55) on Dec. 2.
Marshall is the lone player to average in double figures for the Lions, as the junior guard is at 16.9 points per game (fifth in the SAC) with 11 games in double figures and four 20-point games, including a season-high 26 at King in the season opener on Nov. 8. Senior guard Tatum Boggs averages 9.1 points per game and is the leading three-point shooter for the Lions with 12. A total of 11 of the 14 Lions who have played this season have made at least one start.
As a team, the Lions are last in the conference in points per game (58.0 ppg), field goal percentage (.337), three-point percentage (.198), three-pointers per game (2.2), assists per game (8.8) and scoring defense (78.2 ppg). One area that Mars Hill has been successful is in getting to the foul line, where the Lions are second in the SAC in both free throws made (16.2) and attempted (23.8) per game.
Tusculum has won four consecutive meetings with Mars Hill by an average of 39.8 points per game. Last season, the Pioneers beat the Lions 79-46 at Pioneer Arena on Jan. 9 and 67-32 at Stanford Arena on Feb. 13. The teams have split their 50 all-time meetings 25 wins apiece, with Mars Hill holding a 15-11 advantage at home despite three straight home-court losses to Tusculum.
Coker (4-6, 1-5 SAC) returned from break with an 80-63 win over Paine on New Years Eve, then lost 74-58 at Lenoir-Rhyne in SAC action on Saturday. Amanda Cherry paced the Cobras with 13 points off the bench, while Saquita Jordan had 12 points and Erin Houser added eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Coker's only league win came over Mars Hill (74-66) on Dec. 7, with home losses to Queens and Lincoln Memorial and road defeats at Carson-Newman and Wingate.
Houser is the leading scorer for the Cobras at 11.3 points per game, with Ashauntee Nelson averaging 10.6 points per game and Joyner at 10.4 per contest. Houser, a senior forward, has reached double figures six times and has three double-doubles. Houser also leads the team in rebounding at 7.8 boards per game, which places her eighth in the conference.
Coker is averaging 65.5 points per game to rank eighth in the SAC, and is seventh in points allowed per contest at 66.9. The Cobras are last in the league in foul shooting at 53.9 percent, and are 14-for-32 from the stripe in their last two games with a season high of 66.7 percent (12-for-18) against Converse on Nov. 19. Coker has turned the ball over more than 20 times just once all season, and are among the best in offensive rebounding in the league at 14.6 per game to rank fourth among SAC schools.
The Pioneers have won seven straight meetings with the Cobras and are 9-3 all-time since Coker joined the SAC for the 2013-14 season. The Pioneers swept the Cobras last season, winning 71-57 at home on Jan. 12 and 59-35 in Hartsville on Feb. 23. Tusculum's last loss to Coker was on the road on Dec. 19, 2015 by a 62-60 score.
Wilson has taken over the team lead in scoring average at 14.2 points per game, having reached double figures in six consecutive games and eight times in 10 games this season. Wilson is ninth in the conference in scoring and is 17th overall with a team-high 18 three-pointers.
Senior guard Mia Long averages 13.5 points per game and leads the conference with 3.6 steals per game to rank sixth in Division II. Long has two or more steals in 11 of the Pioneers' 12 games, and is tied for seventh in the conference in assists per game (3.3) and ninth in shooting percentage at 50.0 percent.
Senior forward Kasey Johnson would lead the SAC in foul shooting at 91.3 percent (21-for-23) but is three made free throw shy of the minimum of two made foul shots per game. Junior center Maddie Sutton is qualified for the leaderboard and ranks third in the conference at 87.1 percent at the stripe (27-for-31).
Tusculum leads the SAC in fewest turnovers per game (14.3), steals per game (12.8), and turnover margin (+9.58 per game). The Pioneers are sixth in Division II in turnover margin, and 12th in turnovers forced (23.92 per game).
FOLLOW THE GAMES
Brian Stayton describes 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 5:30 p.m. Wednesday prior to the Mars Hill game and at 1:45 p.m. Saturday before the Coker contest. Live video and live stats links are also available at www.TusculumPioneers.com.