Smith pours in 20, Pioneers sweep season series over Wolves

Smith pours in 20, Pioneers sweep season series over Wolves

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Senior Dillon Smith scored 20 points and went a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line to lead the Tusculum University men's basketball team to a 75-66 South Atlantic Conference win over Newberry College Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Arena.

The Pioneers (13-9, 8-6 SAC) complete the season-sweep over the Wolves (11-9, 7-7 SAC) and remain in a tie for fourth place in the league standings. TU also records its fourth consecutive victory over Newberry matching the longest winning streak in the series with the Wolves.

Sophomore Trenton Gibson added 16 points and seven rebounds, while junior Brandon Mitchell finished with 15 points, seven boards and three blocked shots.  Caleb Hodnett notched nine points including his 100th career three-point field goal at Tusculum. Hodnett also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for the Pioneers.

Newberry's Luke Gibson accounted for 20 points including six 3-pointers, while Angelo Sales, Jr. and TJ Brown added 14 points apiece in the loss.  QuanDaveon McCollum finished eight markers and hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds for the Wolves.

Tusculum led wire-to-wire in the game and scored the first 11 points of the contest in the opening 4:22.  Newberry answered with seven straight points including five from Sales as the Wolves trailed 11-7 at the 14:00 mark of the half.

With Tusculum leading 14-9, the Pioneers went on a 15-0 spurt over five minute span to take a 29-9 lead with 5:34 left before halftime. The run included a mid-air rebound and two-hand slam dunk by freshman DyQuavis Wilkins. He also added a three-pointer as all of his offense came in the 15-0 run.

Newberry cut the TU lead to 16 (31-15) following buckets from Brown and Sales with 4:19 on the clock. Back-to-back baskets by Mitchell and Gibson pushed the lead back to 20 before Tai Giger buried a three-pointer just before halftime as the Pioneers led 35-18 heading into the locker room.

Tusculum shot 13-of-28 (46%) in the opening 20 minutes while limiting the Wolves to 29 percent (7-of-24).

The Pioneers held a 17-point advantage (44-27) with 15:21 left in the game before the Wolves went on a 9-1 run to trim the deficit to single digits at 45-36 following a Brown layup. But after the play Brown was whistled for a technical foul with 11:48 remaining. Smith would score six straight including both technical free throws for a 51-36 lead at the 10:41 mark.

Tusculum would maintain its double-digit lead for the next eight minutes before Newberry's Luke Gibson drilled a trey to cut the TU lead to 63-54 with 1:25 to go.

Mitchell and Smith made two free throws each for the Pioneers, while McCollum and Brown connected on baskets for the Wolves as TU led 67-58 with 47 seconds to go.

The Pioneers would stumble at the line on its next possession going 2-for-4 and Gibson made back-to-back treys for Newberry as the Wolves now trailed 69-64 with 26 seconds left. But the Pioneers would make its next six free throws including four by Smith as TU held on for the victory.

The Pioneers out-rebounded the Wolves by a 36-30 margin and finished the game shooting 45 percent from the floor (23-of-51) and 23-of-28 from the free throw line (82%).

Tusculum returns to action this Wednesday when the Pioneers travel to UVa-Wise in a rematch with the Cavaliers. TU rallied late for an 86-84 win over UVa-Wise in December.