MARS HILL, N.C. — Trenton Gibson scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the second half to lift Tusculum University to a 69-61 victory over Mars Hill University in South Atlantic Conference men’s basketball Wednesday evening at Stanford Arena.
Brandon Mitchell added 13 points and grabbed eight of his nine rebounds on the offensive glass for the Pioneers (10-4, 10-2 SAC), who extended their winning streak to five games despite shooting 36.7 percent (29-for-79) from the field and 4-for-24 from 3-point range.
Kadyn Dawkins led the Lions (4-9, 4-6 SAC) with 14 points on 5-for-16 shooting, with Isaiah Jones adding 11 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Isayah Johnson contributed eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds for Mars Hill, which shot 37.7 percent (23-for-61) from the field and 7-for-23 from beyond the arc.
Tusculum outrebounded Mars Hill 53-39 in the game, which included 22 offensive rebounds which the Pioneers turned into 13 second-chance points. The Pioneers trailed by nine points just five minutes into the game, but rallied to tie the game at halftime before scoring the first 10 points of the second half to take the lead for good.
Gibson, who was coming off a 20-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in an 85-73 win over Catawba on Saturday, shot 9-for-19 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3-point range, while going 4-for-6 from the foul line. Gibson also contributed eight rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes for the Pioneers.
James West IV and William Vedder each scored eight points off the bench for the Pioneers, with Inady Legiste contributing five points and six rebounds along with a pair of blocked shots. Tusculum received 23 points from its bench and outscored Mars Hill 42-28 in the paint. The Pioneers also scored 14 points off 16 Lion turnovers, while Tusculum turned the ball over 10 times which led to eight points for Mars Hill.
Tusculum opened the scoring on a basket by Gibson, but the Pioneers would miss their next eight shots as Mars Hill grabbed an 8-2 lead on a 3-pointer by Dawkins with 17:02 left in the half. A putback by Brandon Mitchell snapped the Tusculum drought at 3 1/2 minutes, but a Jones 3-pointer followed by a Dawkins fast-break layup pushed the Lions ahead 13-4 with 15:10 to play in the half.
Tusculum came back with six straight points, including four from Vedder, to trim to Mars Hill lead to 13-10 with 13:47 remaining in the half. The Pioneers would creep within a point four times over a three-minute span, but a 3-pointer from Jay Hickman and two baskets by Johnson pushed the Lions ahead 31-23 with 5:43 to go in the half.
Down 35-28, the Pioneers again cut the Lions’ lead to one with six straight points on field goals from Mitchell, Legiste and Gibson. Tusculum tied the game at 37-37 on a short jumper from West with 51 seconds to go in the half, and Mars Hill missed just before the buzzer as the teams went to the half deadlocked at 37.
Gibson led the Pioneers with 10 points in the first half on 4-for-8 shooting, as Tusculum finished the half at 38.1 percent (16-for-42) from the field and just 2-for-13 from 3-point range. Mitchell had seven points and seven rebounds, including six on the offensive glass, as the Pioneers outrebounded the Lions 27-17 in the opening half.
Dawkins and Jones shared the scoring lead for Mars Hill in the first half with nine points apiece, while Johnson had six points and a team-high seven rebounds. The Lions recorded six blocked shots as a team in the first half and shot 46.9 percent (15-for-32) from the floor.
The Pioneers scored the first 10 points of the second half, as Mitchell put Tusculum ahead 39-37 on the first possession, Gibson followed with a 3-pointer and Mitchell canned another layup. A free throw from Jacob Hobbs stretched the Tusculum lead to 45-37 with 17:48 remaining, and a Justin Mitchell jumper pushed the Pioneers ahead 47-37 with 16:02 left.
Mars Hill missed its first four shots from the field and turned the ball over five times before ending Tusculum’s 10-0 run on a layup by jackson Reid with 15:29 to go. A 3-pointer from Justus Shelton trimmed the Pioneer lead to 49-42 with 13:30 left, and a Dawkins three pulled the Lions back within 53-47 with 9:49 remaining.
Tusculum led 55-49 with 7:33 to go, when Gibson scored on back-to-back layups to give the Pioneers a 59-49 lead with 6:50 remaining. After Mars Hill pulled back within 59-53, Gibson drained a 3-pointer to put Tusculum on top 62-53 with 4:54 to go. The Pioneers would go without a field goal for the next 3 1/2 minutes, but a driving layup from Gibson gave Tusculum a 65-56 lead with 1:31 left.
Mars Hill would rally once again, as a 3-pointer from Trey Belin and a jumper from Dawkins brought the Lions within 65-60 with 33 seconds left. After a missed Tusculum free throw, Hickman was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 20.3 left and went 1-for-3 at the line to cut the Pioneer lead to 65-61. Gibson would hit two free throws with 19.0 seconds left and Justin Mitchell came up with a steal and dunk with 9.1 left to set the final score.
In addition to his eight points in 18 minutes off the bench, West added three rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot for the Pioneers. Vedder was 4-for-9 from the floor in 20 minutes and chipped in with five rebounds. For Mars Hill, Shelton was 2-for-3 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line for nine points in 13 minutes, along with five rebounds and two blocked shots.
Gibson has his string of games with a double-double end at three in a row, but his 25-point efforts gives him 23 consecutive outings with double figures as well as his 24th career game with 20 or more points.
Tusculum will travel to Hartsville, South Carolina, to face Coker at 4 p.m. Saturday.