Tusculum rallies to 85-71 win at Mars Hill to open new year

Elon Smallwood scored 14 points and dished out a game-high 5 assists in TC's 85-71 win at Mars Hill
Elon Smallwood scored 14 points and dished out a game-high 5 assists in TC's 85-71 win at Mars Hill

MARS HILL, N.C. --- The Tusculum men's basketball team used a 40-10 run to overcome an 11-point deficit as the Pioneers opened the new year with an 85-71 South Atlantic Conference win at Mars Hill Wednesday night at Stanford Arena.

Tusculum (4-9, 2-4 SAC) snaps a three-game losing streak while recording its fourth straight victory over the Lions (2-11, 0-6 SAC).

The Pioneers trailed 26-15 midway through the first half as Mars Hill used an 11-2 spark to take the early lead.  Tusculum responded with a 20-5 run and outscored the Lions 29-10 in the final 10 minutes to take a 44-36 lead into the locker room.  Donovan Donaldson scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the opening half while Caleb Hodnett connected on a pair of key three-pointers during the TC run.

Tusculum opened the contest going 1-of-13 from three-point territory, bounced back making six of its last eight treys in the period to take the lead for good.

TC extended the run into the second half with 11 unanswered points in the opening 4:46 to take a 57-36 advantage following a pair of Zailan Peeler free throws.  TC forced five turnovers to open the period while Mars Hill missed its first six shots.

MHU snapped the skid scoring five straight, including a trey by Luke Van-Rijn.  TC responded with 15-6 run to take its largest lead of the night at 72-47 with 9:45 left.  Peyton Woods contributed five points, while Elon Smallwood added a pair of buckets during the TC spark to put the game out of reach.

Donovan tallied three assists, three steals and three 3-pointers in his 16-point performance.  Smallwood, who scored a season-high 16 markers in his last outing against Barton, followed with a solid 14-point effort going 6-of-10 from the floor and dished out a game-high five assists.  Dustin Day scored a career-high 13 points off the bench as he shot 6-of-10 from the floor.  Mitchell matched his season-best with 12 markers, while hauling in six rebounds and recorded four blocked shots.  Hodnett added eight points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Woods finished with seven points.

Eleven of the 12 Pioneers who saw action found their way into the scoring column for Tusculum.

Van-Rijn led the Lions with his 14 points, while Vernon Jackson had 11 points for Mars Hill.

Tusculum finished the game shooting 46.1 percent and went 11-of-34 from three-point territory for 32 percent.  Mars Hill edged TC on the boards 42-40, but the Pioneers made the most of their 14 offensive boards as TC converted those second chances into 21 points.  The TC bench outscored Mars Hill 55-35 and converted 16 Mars Hill turnovers into 24 points.

The Pioneers return to action on Saturday as they travel to Lenoir-Rhyne for a 4 p.m. SAC contest in Hickory, North Carolina.