GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Lee shot 66.7 percent from the field in the second half to erase a one-point deficit and defeat Tusculum 90-78 in non-conference men’s basketball action Tuesday night at Pioneer Arena.
Levi Woods led the Flames (4-0) with 17 points and eight rebounds as Lee hit 18-of-27 shots from the floor in the second half and 31-for-52 (59.6 percent) for the game. Chase Cullen added 16 points and five rebounds off the bench for Lee, which outscored Tusculum 48-26 in the paint and 51-36 in bench scoring in defeating the Pioneers for the second time in six days.
Zach Hartle scored a career-high 19 points for the Pioneers (1-4), including five straight three-pointers in the first half, but Tusculum was outscored 54-41 by Lee in the second half. Peyton Woods added 16 points and Donovan Donaldson finished with 15 points and four assists for the Pioneers, who shot 46.2 percent (24-for-52) from the field and hit nine three-pointers in 26 attempts.
Lee jumped out to a 12-5 lead after six minutes and built the advantage to 18-8 following back-to-back baskets by Cullen. A foul shot by Levi Woods gave the Flames their largest lead of the first half at 23-10 with 9:35 left, but the Pioneers stormed back behind the three-point shooting of Hartle. With the Pioneers trailing 25-16 at the seven-minute mark, Hartle hit a three-pointer, two foul shots and then three consecutive three-pointers, the latter capping a 22-6 Pioneer run and giving Tusculum a 32-29 lead with 3:01 to play in the half. Keaton Dotson gave Lee a brief lead at 36-35 on a three-pointer with 21 seconds left in the half, but Jackie Davis converted a layup in the closing seconds to send Tusculum to the locker room with a 37-36 edge.
Hartle went 5-for-6 from three-point range and 6-for-7 overall in the first half, with his only miss coming on a rushed shot to beat the 30-second clock. Jason Landman was the only other player to reach double figures in the first half, finishing with a team-high 10 points for the Flames. Lee shot 52 percent (13-for-25) from the field while Tusculum was 12-for-26 from the floor but 7-for-16 from beyond the arc as a team. Each team had 11 turnovers in the first half, while Lee had a 16-14 edge in rebounding.
Lee briefly regained the lead twice in the opening minutes of the second half before Donaldson sank a three-pointer to give Tusculum its final lead of the night at 42-40 with 18:23 to go. Back-to-back three-pointers from the Flames’ Cody Jones and Parker Suedekum pushed Lee on top 46-42 with 17:37 to go, and the lead ballooned to eight points at 52-44 before the Pioneers rallied back to 52-50 following layups by Zailan Peeler and Peyton Woods, who added two free throws to pull Tusculum within two with 14:06 left.
Cullen made three consecutive baskets for the Flames to help them maintain a six-point lead, and the margin increased to 11 at 68-57 on a basket by Levi Woods with 7:16 to go. Donaldson hit a three-pointer with 5:24 left to pull the Pioneers within 74-65, but Woods followed with two buckets and two foul shots to help the Flames to their largest lead at 83-66 with 2:49 remaining. Tusculum was able to cut the margin to nine on three different occasions in the final two minutes, but the Flames went 7-for-8 from the foul line in the final 1:11 to seal the win.
Davis finished with a career-best nine points, three rebounds and three steals in 20 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers, while Dashuante Smith had seven points and a team-high six rebounds in a season-high 29 minutes. Woods went 10-for-11 at the foul line but played just 23 minutes before fouling out late in the second half. Overall, Tusculum shot 21-for-29 (72.4 percent) from the foul line including 15-for-19 in the second half.
Suedekum had nine points for the Flames, while Dotson and Leander Ridgeway Jr. each finished with eight points off the bench for Lee. The Flames shot 24-for-30 (80 percent) from the foul line including 5-for-5 by Woods, 5-for-6 from Copeland and 4-for-4 by Landman. The Flames forced the Pioneers into 19 turnovers which they converted into 23 points, and Lee outrebounded Tusculum 31-28 despite the Pioneers having a 16-8 edge in second-chance points.
Tusculum will return to the road for a neutral-site game against Columbus State on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Holt Fieldhouse on the campus of Carson-Newman in Jefferson City.