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Pioneers fall in final minute at nationally-ranked Catawba, 53-52

Pioneers fall in final minute at nationally-ranked Catawba, 53-52

SALISBURY, N.C. --- Taisha DeShazo converted a three-point play with 30.2 seconds left as Catawba College eked out a 53-52 victory over Tusculum University in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday at Goodman Gymnasium.

The Indians (16-1, 11-1 SAC) survived a last-second shot for the win by the Pioneers (14-4, 9-3 SAC), who lost for the first time in six road SAC games this season and saw their five-game overall winning streak come to an end. Catawba entered the game ranked 10th in the D2SIDA national poll and 23rd in the WBCA Top 25, but did not have a player reach double figures until DeShazo's winning free throw gave her 10 points for the game.

Sydney Wilson, who sat out much of the second half due to injury, and Mia Long led Tusculum with 11 points apiece and Aliyah Miller added 10 points for the Pioneers, whose 17 turnovers were the fewest committed by a Catawba opponent this season. The Pioneers shot 35.8 percent (19-for-53) from the field and 8-for-25 from three-point range, while the Indians surpassed 40 percent from the field for the first time in nine games by hitting 41.2 percent (21-for-51) from the floor and 4-for-17 from beyond the arc.

The Pioneers led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter and held a 30-29 lead at halftime, but Tusculum scored just 22 points in the second half on 8-for-25 shooting (32 percent) from the field. The game featured nine ties and nine lead changes, with Catawba leading for just over nine minutes and Tusculum leading for nearly 26 of the 40 minutes.

With the loss, Tusculum dropped back into a tie for third place in the SAC standings with Carson-Newman at 9-3. Catawba, which has won six straight games and has swept the season series from Tusculum, holds a one-game lead over Anderson (10-2) for first place in the conference with 10 games remaining in the regular season.

Tusculum led 42-39 entering the fourth quarter, but was held without a field goal for more than seven minutes as Catawba used an 8-1 run to take a 47-43 lead with 4:31 left on a putback by Keyotta Garris. The Pioneers cut the deficit to 47-46 on a foul shot by Jalia Arnwine with 2:13 to play, and tied the game at 49-49 as Brianna Dixon hit a three-pointer with 1:43 to go. Catawba regained the lead at 50-49 on a free throw by Shemya Stanback with 1:14 remaining, but Arnwine sank a three-pointer with 47 seconds to go as Tusculum went up 52-50.

DeShazo gave Catawba a 53-52 lead as she was fouled on a layup and followed with a free throw with 30.2 seconds left. Tusculum held the ball for the final shot, and a three-pointer attempt from the corner by Arnwine was just strong off the rim as time expired. The Pioneers were 3-for-8 from the field in the fourth quarter and 2-for-5 at the foul line, while committing six turnovers in the period.

The Pioneers took an early 10-3 lead behind five points from Wilson, and went up 16-7 with 4:14 left in the first quarter following back-to-back three-pointers from Long and Miller, and the run would extend to 10 points in a row as a layup by Wilson gave Tusculum its biggest lead at 20-7 with 2:20 to go in the period. Tusculum shot 8-for-15 from the field and 4-for-8 from three-point range in the first quarter to lead 22-13, behind seven points from Wilson and five each from Long and Miller.

Catawba capped a 12-0 run with a three-pointer by Emily Phillips to tie the game at 22-22 with 7:38 left in the first half. Following a three-pointer by Miller with 6:44 to go, Tusculum went scoreless for six minutes until a three-pointer from Elle Hutchinson tied the game at 28-28 with 42 seconds to play in the half. A free throw from Catawba's Lyrik Thorne restored the Indians' lead at 29-28, but Wilson scored on the final possession of the half to give Tusculum a 30-29 lead at intermission.

Wilson led Tusculum with nine points in the first half while Miller added eight off the bench for the Pioneers, who shot 39.3 percent (11-for-28) from the field and 6-for-15 from three-point range in the first half. Thorne and Stanback shared the team lead in scoring for Catawba with six points each in the first half, as the Indians shot 37.9 percent (11-for-29) from the field and 3-for-13 from beyond the arc in the opening half.

The teams traded off the lead throughout the third quarter, with Tusculum taking a 38-36 lead on two free throws by Miller after Wilson was injured on a foul with 3:55 remaining in the period. Catawba regained the lead at 40-39 on a three-pointer by Phillips, but Long restored the Tusculum lead at 40-39 with 2:43 to play in the period. The Indians went scoreless for the final 3:49 of the quarter following Phillips' three, and Tusculum pushed its lead to 42-39 on a basket by Long just prior to the end of the quarter.

Long shot 5-for-12 from the field and had three rebounds, a game-high five assists while adding three steals to give her nine consecutive games with three steals or more. Miller hit a pair of three-pointers and was 4-for-4 from the foul line in 22 minutes off the bench to hit double figures for the third time this season. Kasey Johnson finished with seven points and a team-high six rebounds for the Pioneers, who were outrebounded 37-32 by the Indians.

Garris finished with eight points and a game-high eight rebounds for Catawba, with Stanback adding seven points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. Thorne had nine points and four rebounds and Phillips scored six points off the bench for the Indians along with Janiya Downs.

Catawba turned the ball over 18 times, which led to 13 points for the Pioneers, while Tusculum's 17 turnovers resulted in 16 points for the Indians. Catawba outscored Tusculum 28-18 in the paint and 7-5 on second-chance points, while the Indians had a slim 19-16 lead in bench scoring.

Tusculum will look to return to the win column on Wednesday when the Pioneers visit Lenoir-Rhyne for a 5:30 p.m. start. The Pioneers beat the Bears 66-49 at Pioneer Arena in their first meeting on Nov. 26, but Lenoir-Rhyne (8-10, 6-6 SAC) will come into Wednesday's game on a two-game winning streak after beating Queens 67-58 on Saturday.

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