in South Atlantic Conference women’s basketball action at Pioneer Arena Wednesday evening.
Tusculum senior guard Shynese Whitener became the 16th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points, but the Pioneers (6-6, 4-5 SAC) shot 34 percent from the field in the second half as the Lions (6-8, 5-4 SAC) outscored Tusculum by a 51-34 margin after halftime.
Whitener entered the game needing 11 points to reach the 1,000 mark, and connected on a free throw with 46.6 seconds to go in the first half to hit the milestone. Whitener finished the game with 14 points, a career-high nine assists and five steals for the Pioneers, who dropped their fourth straight game.
Mars Hill placed four players in double figures, led by South Greene graduate Ansley Ricker who had a game-high 19 points for the Lions. Cadence Wilmoth added 17 points, Paige Chavis contributed 16 and Genice Lane tallied 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Tusculum also had four players reach double figures, as Sydney Wilson led the way with season highs of 17 points and seven assists. In addition to Whitener’s 14, the Pioneers received 11 points and seven rebounds from Kasey Johnson and 10 points from Callie Patterson.
The Pioneers led before the opening tap as Whitener hit two foul shots following an administrative technical foul against the Lions, and took a 14-4 lead on a three-pointer by Patterson midway through the opening period. Tusculum led 22-18 at the end of the first quarter as Whitener had eight points and Patterson added eight.
Mars Hill was able to pull as close as three points in the second period on a jumper by Kelsey Espinosa, but the Pioneers answered with six straight on s layup by Indya Kinard, a three-pointer by Wilson and the milestone free throw by Whitener.
Tusculum led 36-29 at the half as Whitener led all players with 11 points. The Pioneers shot an even 50 percent (14-for-28) from the field in the half, while Mars Hill connected on just 27.3 percent (9-for-33). Espinosa and Chavis shared the team high in scoring for the Lions with seven points apiece in the opening 20 minutes.
The Pioneers maintained the lead through most of the third quarter, although the Lions took their first lead of the night on a three-pointer by Ricker with 2:57 left in the period. A layup by Wilmoth just before the buzzer sent the teams to the final quarter tied 52-52.
A free throw by Lane with 8:28 remaining gave Mars Hill a lead it would not relinquish at 56-55. Three consecutive steals and layups by the Lions off full-court pressure helped Mars Hill go on top 67-58 with 5:38 left, and Tusculum would get no closer than six on a three-pointer by Morgan Depew with 4:20 remaining.
In the second half, Mars Hill shot 57 percent (16-for-28) from the field and went 16-for-25 at the foul line as a team. Meanwhile, the Pioneers dropped off to 34.4 percent shooting (11-for-32) in the second half as the teams finished nearly identical from the field at 41 percent. Mars Hill finished 26-for-39 (66.7 percent) at the line, while Tusculum was 14-for-20 at the free-throw stripe in the contest.
Depew came off the Tusculum bench to contribute seven points, two rebounds and an assist in 11 minutes of action, while Erin Sims added a season-best four rebounds in 15 minutes of playing time. Kristen Atwell also chipped in with four points in eight minutes off the bench for the Pioneers.
Mars Hill finished the game with a 43-36 advantage on the boards, with Espinosa leading the way with 10 rebounds to go along with nine points. Kristen McMillion battled foul trouble most of the night for the Pioneers, but still finished with a team-high eight rebounds in just 20 minutes of action.
Turnovers keyed the Mars Hill comeback, as they scored 39 points off Tusculum’s 22 turnovers in the game. The Pioneers forced the Lions into 16 miscues, but could only convert them into 14 points. Both teams were active on the floor, with Tusculum scoring 16 fast-break points and Mars Hill notching 15.
The Pioneers will return to action Saturday afternoon when they travel to Charlotte to face Queens University. Tip-off will be at 2 p.m.