MARS HILL, N.C. - The Mars Hill men's basketball team (9-13, 3-11 SAC) was defeated by Tusculum (11-12, 7-8 SAC) by a score of 81-73 Wednesday night inside Stanford Arena.
With just under five minutes played, the Lions were trailing Tusculum 12-8 before going on a 13-0 run to take a nine-point lead over the Pioneers. Ja'Shawn Brooks had five points in the run while Dotson Griffin added four. Mars Hill built their lead into double-digits with 9:59 remaining in the half off of a Brooks three-pointer. They boosted the advantage to 12 from a Javonte Cooke layup before the Pioneers began to chip away at the lead.
The Pioneers would go on a 16-4 run over a 6:47 span to tie the game at 32 with 3:12 remaining in the half. Trenton Gibson had six of the Pioneers' points in that run. A Tariq Jenkins free throw gave the visitors a short lived lead before the Lions closed out the half on a 5-3 run to lead 37-36 after the first.
Tusculum's Caleb Hodnett led all players with 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. Gibson added nine. Both Brooks and Cooke paced the Lions' offense with eight points apiece. Justen Hartfield added seven.
With 2:28 elapsed in the second half of play, the Pioneers regained the lead for good as Jackie Davis' layup gave them a 40-39 lead. They scored 14 of the next 20 points to build a nine-point cushion with 11:10 left in the game. Over that span, Jenkins and Hodnett scored five and four points, respectively. The Lions trimmed the deficit down to two points off of an Austin Gilyard jumper, but conceded seven straight points to find themselves down by nine with under seven minutes to play.
The Lions clawed within four with 5:45 left, but a Pioneers' 8-2 run ballooned the lead to double-digits with three minutes left on the clock. In the last second of play, a Hartfield layup pulled the Lions within eight as they fell to Tusculum for the second time this season.
Hodnett and Donovan Donaldson each scored 21 points with Hodnett collecting the double-double with 10 rebounds. Gibson finished the contest with 18. Cooke led the Lions with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double. Hartfield added 13 while Reggie Wright finished the game with 11 points.
Mars Hill returns to action on Saturday, February 16th when they take on Wingate on the road. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.