Inady Legiste scored a career-high 21 points off the bench to lead the Tusculum University men’s basketball team to a 77-68 South Atlantic Conference victory over visiting Limestone University Tuesday night at Pioneer Arena.
The Pioneers (3-2, 3-0 SAC) rattled off their third straight victory and find themselves one of three teams remaining in the conference who are undefeated in league play. The win was also TU’s 12 straight regular-season home victory dating back to February 2020.
Legiste went 6-of-10 from the floor with a 3-pointer and shot 8-of-9 from the free throw line. He also grabbed five rebounds, two steals and posted three blocked shots.
Tusculum shot 22-of-24 from the free throw line (92%) led by graduate student Trenton Gibson as he went 10-of-11 from the charity stripe to finish the game with 18 points. James West IV added 15 points including three 3-pointers while dishing out a career-high six assists and blocked a pair of shots.
Limestone’s Isayah Owens led the way for the Saints (3-2, 2-1 SAC) with his 14 markers, while Ben Gahlert and Greg McKay accounted for 12 and 10 points respectively.
Tusculum never trailed in the game and held the lead for all but 49 seconds. TU jumped out to a 13-4 lead and led by as many as 19 points in the second half before the Saints made a furious charge and cut the deficit to five points on two occasions in the final minutes.
The Pioneers took its biggest lead in the first half at 41-26 following six straight points including a Gibson basket and four points from Justin Mitchell with 3:41 remaining the period. The Saints would close out the half with 9-2 run including a Chase Freeman 3-pointer from the left corner with four seconds left to trim the deficit to 43-35 at the intermission.
Tusculum opened the second half with a 16-5 spurt over a span of five minutes to take a 61-42 lead with 14:43 remaining the game. The run included triples from legist, West and freshman KJ Crum.
The Saints, who rallied from an 18-point deficit in Saturday’s 62-59 road win at Newberry, was looking to do the same at Tusculum. Limestone went on 14-2 run and cut the once 19-point differential to a seven-point margin at 63-56 with 7:55 on the clock.
TU moved the lead back out to double-digits when Legiste made one of two free throws and converted a layup on a fast break to lead 66-56 with 7:44 to go. Buckets from Dada and McKay trimmed the TU lead to 66-60.
The Pioneers increased the lead to nine twice including 71-62 following a steal by Gibson which was converted in to a fast break layup by West with four minutes remaining in the game.
Gahlert made two free throws and after a TU shot clock violation, Gahlert scored again to make it a five-point game (71-66) with 2:43 remaining.
The two teams would come up empty on their next possessions before Legiste made a turnaround jumper in the paint for a 73-66 lead with 1:47 to go. Gahlert got free in the paint and made layup to make it a five-point lead again at 73-68 with 1:33 on the scoreboard.
Tusculum would turn the ball over on its second shot clock violation of the half as the Saints were lurking. Limestone would miss three shots in the final 42 seconds while the Gibson would be fouled and connected on four consecutive free throws to secure the victory.
Tusculum won the rebound battle by a 38-25 margin as Crump, Gibson and Brandon Mitchell finished with five boards apiece. Limestone shot equally well from the foul line going 22-of-26 (85%).
TU shot 43.6 percent (24-of-55) and posted 17 assists on its 24 made field goals.
With his 18-point performance, Gibson moves into 18th place on Tusculum’s all-time scoring list with 1,252 points, moving past Jeremy Fortner (1248 from 1996-2000). He needs two points to jump past former TU great Fred Eschweiler, who posted 1,253 points from 1963-1967.
The Pioneers travel to UVA Wise at 4 p.m. Saturday. TU has won the past six meetings with UVA Wise.