GREENEVILLE, Tenn. —– Patrick Monroe and Justin Yeargin scored 29 points apiece and Mars Hill University shot 69 percent from the field in the second half to defeat Tusculum College 110-98 in a South Atlantic Conference men’s basketball game Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.
The Lions (7-8, 3-6 SAC) outscored the Pioneers 60-48 in the second half to break a 50-50 halftime tie. Monroe made his first five attempts from three-point range and finished 8-for-10 from beyond the arc in the game, as the Lions shot 15-for-27 (55.6 percent) overall from long range.
Darius Carter led the Pioneers (7-7, 3-6 SAC) with a game and season-high 30 points, with three other players finishing in double figures for the Pioneers on the evening. Chase Mounce added 17 points and six rebounds, Zach Davis had 16 points and a game-high eight boards and Kendall Patterson had 11 points and a game-best six assists for the Pioneers, who finished the game at an even 50 percent (37-for-74) from the field.
The Lions entered the game last in the nation in Division II in team free-throw percentage at 57.4 percent, but went 19-for-24 in the contest including 14-for-18 in the second half to protect their lead. Tusculum also shot well from the stripe, going 18-for-24 (75 percent) for the night.
Tusculum dashed out to a 13-5 lead behind four points apiece from Carter and Davis, and led by as many as nine points at 33-24 following a layup by Carter with 9:13 remaining in the half. However, Monroe hit three consecutive three-pointers to tie the game at 33, part of a 13-0 run for the Lions that gave them a 37-33 lead with 7:08 to play in the first half.
The Pioneers answered right back with a 13-0 run of their own that featured three-point plays from both Carter and Patterson and was capped by a basket from Malik Tyree that pushed the Pioneers to a 46-37 lead with 4:22 remaining in the half. Tusculum had its largest lead of the game at 48-38 following a Javon Price putback with 3:16 to go in the half, but the Lions finished with a 12-2 run that was capped by a Yeargin three-pointer with five seconds left in the half.
Monroe led all players with 17 points in the first half, as the Lions went 18-for-41 (43.9 percent) overall from the field but 9-for-16 on three-pointers. Carter had a game-high 12 points for the Pioneers, who received points from 10 different players and shot 55.3 percent (21-for-38) from the field as a team. Tusculum also had the edge on the boards, outrebounding Mars Hill 26-14 in the opening half.
The Lions never trailed in the second half, using a putback from Tyree Griffin to take the lead for good on the opening possession of the half. Tusculum cut a six-point deficit down to two on three different occasions, but three-pointers from Jalen Witherspoon, Kevin Haynes and Monroe helped Mars Hill expand its lead to nine at 85-76 with 7:54 to play. The Lions would lead by as many as 14 points in the closing minutes, with the Pioneers getting no closer than nine on a three-pointer by Carter with 1:15 on the clock.
Carter’s 30 points surpassed his previous season high of 29 against Brevard on Nov. 24 and were his most since netting a career-high 39 against Anderson on Feb. 26, 2014. Carter was 9-for-10 at the foul line in the game and in the process moved past three players into 17th place on the school career scoring list with 1,077 points. Carter jumped over Brad Hawks (1,076 from 2001-05), Reggie Turner (1,069 from 1989-91) and Doug DeBusk (1,062 from 1991-95) with his 30-point effort.
For the Lions, Witherspoon (13 points) and Griffin (10 points) also reached double figures in the game. Michael Carson, Brandon McCarter and Haynes all added seven points off the bench for Mars Hill, with Haynes adding three rebounds and a team-high five assists in 26 minutes of action.
Tusculum will be back in action on Saturday afternoon with a trip to Charlotte to face 13th-ranked Queens University. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m.