WINTER PARK, Fla. — For the third consecutive year, Tusculum upset a top-10 team during Thanksgiving weekend as the Pioneers defeated fourth-ranked Rollins 69-55 in action at the Rollins Thanksgiving Tournament Friday afternoon at Warden Arena.
Kendal Baxter hit 10 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 37 points for the Pioneers (2-1), who connected on 15 3s as a team and forced the Tars (4-1) into 22 turnovers which were converted into 25 points.
Baxter broke her career high of 35 points set on Jan. 4 of last season at Lincoln Memorial, and fell one shy of matching her school and South Atlantic Conference record of 11 3-pointers set in that game. The senior, who finished 10-of-18 from behind the arc overall, went 7-for-11 on 3-pointers and scored 25 points in the second half alone, nearly outscoring the Tars (27 points) by herself. She also dished out a game-high five assists and had two steals in 37 minutes of playing time.
Jama Hammontree and Breaira Barksdale each finished with 11 points for Tusculum, which never trailed and led by as many as 20 points in the first half before Rollins pulled within a point with 14:26 to go. From there, the Pioneers went on a 21-6 run to regain control and pull off yet another Thanksgiving upset.
The Pioneers knocked off No. 7 Indianapolis 83-64 on the road two years ago and defeated top-ranked Clayton State 63-51 at North Georgia’s Thanksgiving tournament last year. The Pioneers have won eight of their last nine games played during Thanksgiving weekend dating back to the 2008-09 season.
Sarah Taylor led the Tars with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Sarah Blackburn and Ashley Losch added 12 points and seven rebounds apiece. Rollins finished with a 45-38 rebounding edge against Tusculum, but shot 38 percent (19-for-50) from the floor and could only force the Pioneers into nine turnovers in the game.
The Pioneers shot 36.2 percent (25-for-69) from the field as a team, but connected on 15 of their 31 3-point attempts. Tusculum was 9-for-16 from beyond the arc in the second half, while Rollins went just 3-for-13 from long range in the game.
Tusculum opened the game by scoring 15 consecutive points as part of an 18-2 run in the first 6 1/2 minutes, led by eight points each from Barksdale and Baxter. The Pioneers’ lead grew to 26-6 midway through the half before a 16-3 spurt by the Tars pulled them within 32-28 at halftime.
Baxter led the Pioneers with 12 points in the first half while Barksdale, who battled foul trouble in the second half, scored all 11 of her points in the opening 20 minutes. Losch led the Tars with 11 points, but 13 Rollins turnovers were turned into 15 points for Tusculum.
Rollins continued to chip away at the Tusculum lead, and had a chance to tie when Jennifer Farrell was fouled on a layup with 14:26 left with the Tars trailing 42-39. However, she missed the foul shot and the Pioneers retained a one-point advantage at 42-41.
From there, it was all Baxter as she scored the game’s next seven points to give Tusculum a 49-41 lead on a 3-pointer with 10:37 to play. That 3-pointer sparked a streak of six consecutive made threes by Baxter in a nine-minute stretch, part of a run in which she scored 22 of the Pioneers’ final 27 points.
April McCann scored just three points in 23 minutes for the Pioneers, but grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Hammontree and Kristen McMillion added six boards apiece, and Alishia Mosley had four rebounds to go with four points and four assists.
In Friday’s second game, Charleston shot 49 percent from the field to overcome a 42-26 rebound deficit in a 75-64 win against Missouri S&T. Leanne Ross led the way for the Golden Eagles with 13 points, and Nichole Perry added 11 points and hit all three of her 3-point attempts.