HARROGATE—Tusculum’s Brandon Mitchell posted 17 points and seven rebounds while the Pioneers used an 11-0 first half run as TU remained undefeated on the young season with a 78-61 victory over Clayton State to conclude the South Atlantic Conference / Peach Belt Conference Challenge. The two-day event was held at Tex Turner Arena at Lincoln Memorial University.
Tusculum is off to its first 2-0 start to season since winning its first two games of the 2016-2017 campaign. TU avenges last year’s four-point loss to Clayton State and defeats the Lakers for the first-time ever in four meetings.
Mitchell highlighted four Pioneers in double-figure scoring as senior Tariq Jenkins shot 6-of-10 from the field including 2-of-3 from three-point territory for his 15 points. Sophomore Trenton Gibson followed Friday’s triple-double with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals. TU newcomer Joshua Scott tallied 11 points off the bench as he shot 5-of-7 from the floor, grabbed seven boards and made three steals. TU’s Caleb Hodnett led all players with nine rebounds to go along with his nine points, three assists and two blocked shots.
The Lakers (0-2) were led by Bryan Hart who tallied a game-high 18 markers and nine rebounds in the losing effort. CSU teammates John Mason and Mehdi Pissis added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Pioneers continues their domination on the boards as TU out-rebounded Clayton State 48-31 including 20-11 on the offensive glass resulting in 15 second-chance points. Defensively, TU held the Lakers to 36 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers and scoring 26 points of those miscues.
TU also dominated the paint, out-scoring CSU 42-20 and also held a 17-6 advantage in fast-break scoring.
Hodnett put the Pioneers on the scoreboard as he drilled a three-pointer for the early lead. The Lakers got back-to-back triples from Hart and Byron Abrams for a 6-3 CSU lead. TU answered with 11 straight points over a span of 4:14 including a Hodnett dunk and a Jenkins trey as the Pioneers led 14-6 with 14:10 remaining in the period.
After a Clayton State timeout, the Lakers got triples from hart and Pissis to trim the deficit to 14-12 with 11:55 left in the half. TU answered with a 12-2 spurt which was capped off by a three-point play from Mitchell as he was fouled on his dunk at the 7:10 mark to give TU a 26-14 lead.
The Lakers responded with a 7-2 run to cut the TU lead to 28-21 at the 5:12 mark. TU scored eight straight points down the stretch including another Mitchell dunk as the Pioneers took a 35-23 lead into the locker room.
Mitchell opened the second half with his third dunk of the afternoon for a 37-23 lead, but CSU got a trey from Hart and a John Mason three-point play as the TU lead was whittled down to 37-29 with 18:02 left in the contest.
Scott scored on an offensive rebound and put-back before both teams went scoreless for nearly five minutes. Scott broke the drought with a bucket at the 12:08 mark as TU led 41-29. Tusculum would maintain the double-digit lead for the remainder of the game and used a 9-0 run down the stretch to put the game away.
The Pioneers will play at home for the first time this season when they host Peach Belt opponent Young Harris College on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. contest. It will be the first recorded meeting between TU and the Mountain Lions.