SALISBURY, N.C. — Freshman Sydney Wilson scored 14 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 35 seconds remaining to lead the Tusculum College women’s basketball team to a 54-51 South Atlantic Conference victory at Catawba College Saturday afternoon at Goodman Gym.
Tusculum senior Shynese Whitener, the league’s top-scorer, led the Pioneers (4-1, 2-0 SAC) with 22 points and connected on a pair of critical free throws with seven seconds left to give TC a three-point lead at 54-51.
The Catawba Indians (3-5, 0-2 SAC) got off a three-point shot at the buzzer but it was no good as the Pioneers are off to their first 4-1 start to a season since the 2012-13 campaign.
TC senior Kristen McMillion scored four points, but led all players with 10 rebounds, including seven in the second half.
Tusculum jumped out to a 16-11 lead after the first quarter as the Pioneers made seven of their first nine shots in the opening 10 minutes. But TC cooled off while Catawba’s Bri Johnson finished the first half with 15 of her game-high 23 points as the Pioneers led 27-25 at the intermission.
Catawba outscored the Pioneers 17-14 in the third period to take a 42-41 lead heading into the final period. TC opened the final quarter with an 8-2 run over the first 4:16 of the frame to lead 49-44 with 5:55 remaining. The Catawba Indians responded with five straight points to tie the game at 49-49 with two minutes left following a Bri Johnson jumper.
Both teams came up empty on their ensuing possessions setting up Wilson’s heroics as she connected on Tusculum’s first three-pointer of the game with 35 seconds remaining for a 52-49 TC lead, ending a 0-for-8 drought from long range.
Catawba’s Emma Ucinski was fouled with 11 seconds remaining as she made both free throws to cut the TC lead to one (52-51).
Catawba had committed only one foul in the quarter to that point so the Indians were forced to commit four more fouls as quickly as possible to send Tusculum to the free throw line. The Indians did so proficiently taking only four seconds off the clock and sent Whitener to the line as she made both her tries to extend the TC lead back to three (54-51).
But Catawba’s Marshauna Butler missed her game-tying three-point effort at the end to seal the Tusculum victory.
Tusculum freshman Kasey Johnson finished the game with eight points and eight rebounds for the Pioneers.
Tusculum out-rebounded Catawba by a 34-30 margin, while shooting 42 percent from the floor and 11-of-15 from the free throw stripe (73.3%). Catawba shot 37 percent from the field, including 8-of-23 from three-point land (35%).
Defensively, the Pioneers forced 17 turnovers and converted the Catawba miscues into 16 points.
Tusculum returns home Tuesday as they host defending SAC Champion Anderson University (4-0, 2-0 SAC) for a 6 p.m. contest at Pioneer Arena.
(Courtesy Tusculum Athletics)