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Newberry builds early lead, beats Pioneers 73-60

Mia Long had 20 points, seven rebounds and six steals against Newberry (photo by Chuck Williams)
Mia Long had 20 points, seven rebounds and six steals against Newberry (photo by Chuck Williams)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Newberry College built a 15-point lead after one quarter and went on to a 73-60 victory over Tusculum University Saturday afternoon in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action at Pioneer Arena.

Kelsey McDermott led four players in double figures with 19 points for the Wolves (11-8, 8-6 SAC), who won their third consecutive game by shooting 51.1 percent (24-for-47) from the field and 20-for-22 at the free throw line as a team. Courtney Virgo hit four three-pointers and finished with 16 points and Brandi Hall added a season-high 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds off the bench for Newberry, which received 10 points and a game-high eight assists from Keli Romas.

Mia Long led the Pioneers (15-5, 10-4 SAC) with a game-high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds and six steals, and Maddie Sutton recorded 16 points and matched her career high with 13 rebounds for her second straight double-double and fourth in the last seven games. However, Tusculum shot just 30.9 percent (21-for-68) from the field and 4-for-25 from three-point range, including misses on each of its first 13 attempts. The Pioneers were outrebounded 44-32 by Newberry and failed to take advantage of 22 Wolves turnovers, scoring just 13 points off the miscues, while tying a season low with eight turnovers as a team.

McDermott scored 11 points in the first half to help the Wolves to a 33-20 halftime lead. Newberry led by as many as 18 points late in the second quarter, but Tusculum cut the margin to nine points on a Long basket midway through the fourth quarter. The Wolves put the game away at the foul line, hitting all 12 of their attempts in the fourth quarter and going 16-for-17 in the second half. Hall was a perfect 6-for-6 at the stripe in the game while Romas shot 6-for-7 at the line for the Wolves.

Long reached the 20-point mark for the second straight game and the fifth time this season, and came up with at least three steals for the 11th consecutive game. Kasey Johnson, who scored a career-high 34 points in the Pioneers' 88-84 double-overtime win at Lenoir-Rhyne on Wednesday, finished with 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting and had four rebounds for the Pioneers against Newberry.

After Newberry scored the game's first four points, the Pioneers came back to tie the score at 4-4 on a layup by Long and a basket by Johnson with 7:29 left in the first quarter. However, the Wolves would run off the next 13 points, including consecutive three-pointers from Virgo, McDermott and Virgo again to build a 17-4 lead with 3:37 remaining in the period. The run extended to 19-2 as Tusculum went 10 out of 11 shots over a span of nearly seven minutes. A layup by Long with 42 seconds left in the quarter left Newberry holding a 23-8 advantage after the first 10 minutes of play.

The teams went scoreless for nearly 2 1/2 minutes to start the second quarter until Sutton converted a three-point play for the Pioneers. Newberry would take its largest lead of the game at 33-15 on a three-point play by Julie Kinard with 3:33 to go in the first half, but that would be the last shot attempt of the half for the Wolves, who turned the ball over on their final four possessions. Tusculum scored the final five points of the quarter on a steal and layup by Long and a three-pointer from Kristen Click to pull within 33-20 at intermission.

Long led the Pioneers with eight points and four steals in the first half, as the Pioneers shot 28.1 percent (9-for-32) from the field and 1-for-15 from three-point range. Johnson added six points from the Pioneers, with three points apiece from Click and Sutton. For Newberry, McDermott had 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting and Kinard added seven points off the bench as the Wolves shot 54.2 percent (13-for-24) from the field while outrebounding the Pioneers by a 25-11 margin.

Newberry kept its lead between 12 and 17 points in the third quarter, as the Pioneers endured a 3 1/2 minute scoring drought between a putback from Sutton and a three-pointer from Jalia Arnwine. A basket by Elle Hutchinson just before the end of the period left the Pioneers facing a 49-36 deficit entering the final quarter.

Back-to-back baskets by McDermott and Kinard to open the fourth quarter stretched the Wolves' lead to 53-36, but the Pioneers responded with a 10-2 run behind six points from Long to pull within 55-46 with 5:32 remaining. Another Long basket would bring the Pioneers within 57-48 with 4:09 to go, but two straight baskets from the Wolves' Mylaysia Gates extended Newberry's lead to 61-48 with 2:34 left. Newberry went 12-for-12 at the foul line in the final 1:22, while the Pioneers stayed close on three-pointers from Click and Sutton in the final minute and a three-point play by Sutton with 19 seconds left.

Gates had five points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench for Newberry, while Kelsey Brett had seven rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. The Wolves had just five offensive rebounds as a team, but pulled 39 boards on the defensive end led by all nine of Hall's rebounds in the game.

Tusculum will return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at UVa-Wise, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Pioneers beat the Cavaliers 89-85 in the first meeting between the teams on Dec. 18 at Pioneer Arena.

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