WISE, Va. --- Tusculum University forced UVa-Wise into 31 turnovers as the Pioneers defeated the Cavaliers 69-63 in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Wednesday evening at the Prior Convocation Center.
Mia Long led the Pioneers (16-5, 11-4 SAC) with 17 points as Tusculum scored 26 points off the UVa-Wise turnovers. Maddie Sutton had a game-high 10 rebounds for the Pioneers and Kasey Johnson finished with nine points and seven rebounds as the Pioneers deployed two waves of five players to wear down the depleted Cavaliers, who still managed to shoot 50 percent (25-for-50) from the field despite using just seven players in the game.
Nia Vanzant led UVa-Wise (10-11, 6-9 SAC) with a game-high 23 points and seven rebounds, with Ada Stanley adding 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Caitlyn Ross, who had a triple-double in the Cavs' 65-54 upset win over nationally-ranked Catawba on Saturday, was held to five points on 2-for-4 shooting with four rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes of action. UVa-Wise shot 65 percent (13-for-20) from the field in the second half but turned the ball over 15 times after intermission.
Tusculum led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, only to see UVa-Wise chip away and cut the deficit to 64-61 on a layup by Stanley with 42.2 seconds remaining. However, Johnson went 4-for-4 at the foul line in the final 25 seconds to secure the sweep of the season series by the Pioneers, who remain tied for third place in the SAC with Carson-Newman at 11-4 with seven games remaining in the regular season.
As a team, the Pioneers shot 38.7 percent (24-for-62) from the field and 7-for-26 from three-point range, but went 14-for-18 (77.8 percent) from the foul line including 11-for-12 in the fourth quarter. Nine of the 10 Pioneers to play in the game reached the scoring column, including Jasmine Williams and Elle Hutchinson with seven points apiece off the bench. The Tusculum bench outscored the UVa-Wise bench by a 23-4 margin, although the Cavaliers had a 17-2 edge in fast break points.
The Pioneers finished the game with 20 steals as a team, but just one came from Long who entered the game leading the SAC and ranking second in Division II in steals per game (3.8). Long's streaks of 16 consecutive games with two steals or more and 11 in a row with three steals or more were ended in the game, although she moved with 67 points of becoming the 19th player in program history to score 1,000 points and the third this season.
Tusculum went out to a 4-0 lead on a jumper by Johnson and a putback by Sutton, but back-to-back baskets from Vanzant tied the game at 4-4. Long gave the Pioneers a 7-4 lead with a three-point play, but a putback from Stanley and a three-pointer by Hanna Oliver would give the Cavaliers their lone lead of the game at 9-7 with 5:38 left in the first quarter. Miller scored two buckets near the end of the first quarter as the Pioneers took a 17-13 lead into the second period.
A three-pointer from Jalia Arnwine extended Tusculum's lead to 20-13 with 8:47 left in the first half, but UVa-Wise ran off six straight to pull back within 20-19 on a Stanley layup with 6:45 left. The teams then combined to go scoreless for just over three minutes until a three-pointer by Williams pushed the Pioneers in front 26-19 with 3:37 to go until half. Two straight baskets from the Pioneers' Brianna Dixon were answered by a three-pointer from Vanzant, but Hutchinson hit a basket in the final minute as Tusculum carried a 34-27 lead to halftime.
Long led the Pioneers with six points in the first half as all 10 players were on the court between eight and 12 minutes. Sutton had nine rebounds in the opening half for Tusculum, which shot 14-for-37 (37.8 percent) in the half compared to 40 percent (12-for-30) from the Cavaliers. Vanzant had a game-high 11 points in the first half for the Cavaliers, while Stanley added four points, five rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots.
The Cavaliers cut the deficit to three points early in the third quarter, but baskets from Long and Sutton and a three-pointer by Long kept the Cavs at bay and left the Pioneers up 41-35 with 6:06 remaining in the quarter. Long's three-pointer sparked a 9-0 run by the Pioneers which including a three-pointer from Hutchinson and a layup from Williams, the latter giving the Pioneers their largest lead at 47-35 with 3:38 to go in the period. UVa-Wise rallied behind back-to-back three-pointers from Kalee Johnson, but a Sutton basket and a layup from Long in the final seconds gave Tusculum a 51-41 lead entering the fourth.
Two free throws from Long enabled the Pioneers to equal their largest lead at 53-41, but baskets from Johnson, Vanzant and Stanley allowed the Cavaliers to pull within six at 53-47 with 7:39 left. A three-pointer from Oliver cut the Tusculum lead to 56-52 with 4:49 left, but the Pioneers regained an eight-point margin at 60-52 on a Johnson bucket with 3:51 left. Vanzant drilled a three-pointer with 1:55 to go to bring UVa-Wise within 63-59, and a Stanley basket with 42.2 seconds remaining brought the Cavaliers to within 64-61. Vanzant had a chance to cut the deficit to one with 32 seconds to go but missed two free throws, and a lost ball turnover with 25 seconds left allowed the Pioneers to put the game away at the foul line.
Sutton's 10 rebounds mark the seventh time in the last 13 games she has reached double figures on the boards. Tusculum outrebounded UVa-Wise by a 36-33 margin, including 15 on the offensive glass. Miller added six rebounds and finished with five points in 14 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers. Kirsten Click, making her first career start for Tusculum, hit a pair of three-pointers and finished with six points and a season-best three steals in 23 minutes, while Arnwine also hit a pair of three-pointers and had six points for the Pioneers.
Tusculum will return to Pioneer Arena on Saturday to host Queens University of Charlotte in a 2 p.m. tipoff. The Pioneers beat the Royals 71-55 in Charlotte on Dec. 21 and have won seven of eight all-time meetings with Queens at Pioneer Arena. The Royals (5-16, 4-11 SAC) snapped a four-game losing streak Wednesday night with a 65-58 win over visiting Coker.