GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Tusculum earned its second victory against a ranked team in four days with a 68-61 win against No. 11 Shaw Monday night at Pioneer Arena.
Staci Hicks posted her second double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Pioneers, who are off to their first 4-0 start since the 2006-07 season and have won 15 consecutive home games dating to the 2009-10 season. Kendal Baxter added 13 points as the Pioneers held off a late run by the Bears (1-1), who were national semifinalists in 2010-11.
Brittany Ransom led Shaw with a game-high 22 points, but went scoreless over the final 13 minutes. Aslea Williams was a force inside for the Bears with 12 points and 12 rebounds, but fouled out with 7:57 remaining and the Pioneers clinging to a 52-51 lead.
In a game in which each team put up similar numbers, the difference was bench scoring. The Pioneer reserves combined for 21 points while Shaw’s backups managed just 11 points in the contest. Nequoiah Anderson provided a spark for Tusculum, scoring a career-high nine points including a pair of three-pointers.
“Practices are about one thing, and that’s improving. Games are about one thing, and that’s winning. If we can evaluate ourselves honestly after a win and recognize that we can get better, we don’t have to lose to learn a lesson,” Tusculum head coach Adell Harris said. “Our challenge this week is to learn a lesson from the win, because we have a lot of things to improve on and clean up.”
There were four ties and seven lead changes in the opening half, which saw a 9-0 run by the Pioneers answered by a 13-0 spurt from the Bears which gave Shaw its largest lead at 24-21 following a layup by Ransom with 4:21 left. A three-pointer by Jama Hammontree and a putback by Linda Aughburns gave the Pioneers the lead back at 26-24 with 3:20 to play in the half, and Tusculum went to the locker room holding a 28-26 advantage.
Hicks led the Pioneers with 10 points and seven rebounds in the first half, while Ransom paced all players with 13 points for the Bears. After a hot start, the Pioneers cooled off to 42.9 percent (12-for-28) from the field in the half, while the Bears struggled to get going and finished at 35.5 percent (11-for-31).
A three-pointer from April McCann broke the sixth tie of the game and gave Tusculum a 34-31 lead with 17:52 to go, but Shaw battled back to knot the score at 42-42 thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from Ransom, the latter coming with 13:13 remaining. The Bears went up 48-45 on a jumper by Alyssa Lane with 10:59 left, but the Pioneers grabbed the lead for good on a three-pointer by Anderson with 9:31 to play.
The Pioneers seemed to take control via a 9-0 run, going on top 64-54 on a layup by Baxter with 3:35 left. However, the Bears came back again with five unanswered points and had a chance to pull within two in the final two minutes, but could not connect from long range and the Pioneers clinched the win at the foul line as Baxter hit three free throws with 37 seconds left.
McCann played just 14 minutes due to early foul trouble, but finished with nine points, three rebounds and three assists for the Pioneers. Aughburns added five points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Alexis Anderson was effective as McCann’s backup with three assists and two rebounds in 14 minutes of playing time. Breyona Bennett also had a solid performance off the bench for Tusculum with four points and three boards in 10 minutes.
“All along, I’ve thought one of the strengths of our group is being able to have anybody go out there with a scorer’s mentality and contribute,” Harris said . “Nequoiah and Alishia (Mosley) are going to go in there with a scorer’s mentality and get some baskets. I’d like for us to be less selfish with the basketball, to share it and trust each other and not try to do it all by ourselves. It’s early for us and we have a long way to go, but I love the balance and depth from our bench.”
Overall, Tusculum finished at 39.3 percent (22-for-56) from the field, and went 5-for-17 from three-point range. The Pioneers had an off night at the foul line, shooting just 19-for-34 (55.9 percent) as a team. Shaw posted nearly identical shooting numbers, going 23-for-59 (39.0 percent) from the field and hitting 6-for-17 from long range. The Bears managed to reach the foul line just 16 times, hitting on nine of their attempts for 56.3 percent.