GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – The Anderson men's basketball team was staring at an eight-point deficit with just 71 seconds left in the game, but got back in the win column and claimed its second straight road victory, as junior guard Shawn Benard posted a three-point play with 8.3 seconds remaining to give the Trojans a late lead as they came from behind to knock off Tusculum, 68-66, in South Atlantic Conference action Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.
Anderson (12-8, 6-6 SAC) swept the season series with the Pioneers for the second straight season and claimed sole possession of sixth place in the conference standings, while Tusculum (9-11, 5-7 SAC) dropped its third straight decision.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Senior guard Kevin Simpson shared game-high scoring honors with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, while fellow senior Andrew Boynton added 16 points, including 10 in the first half. Benard finished the night with 12 points and a game-high 10 assists for his third double-double of the season. Senior Gage Ellis pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, with guard Randall Shaw chipping in nine points.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Trojans got off to a slow start, as they misfired on their first five field goal attempts and the sluggish beginning enabled Tusculum to jump out to a 9-2 lead inside the opening four minutes of action.
The Pioneers steadily built their largest lead of the contest, at 15-7, over the next four-plus minutes before Benard sparked a 7-0 surge that saw AU climb within just a single point at the 9:43 mark. Tusculum countered by edging out to a 21-16 advantage, but Josh Livingston dropped in a pair of free throws to ignite a 10-2 outburst by the Trojans that saw them claim their first lead of the night, at 24-23, on back-to-back treys by Simpson and Boynton.
AU held the advantage over the final 5:36 of the opening frame and led, 32-28, at the break.
The Pioneers connected on their first three field goal attempts of the second half and regained a 35-32 edge, before AU battled back to knot the score for the first of three times inside the opening five minutes of the second half.
Tusculum rallied to claim a six-point lead on five occasions over the next 14 minutes before equaling its largest lead of the contest, at 66-58, with just 1:11 showing on the clock and setting up a wild finish.
Simpson sparked AU's final comeback by knocking down his fourth 3-pointer of the night and the Trojans forced three Tusculum turnovers and capitalized on four missed free throws by the Pioneers inside the final minute to pull out the win.
Trailing by five, Benard connected on a pair of free throws with 49.8 seconds on the clock and after TU misfired on back-to-back free throw attempts on the other end, Boynton drained two from the charity stripe to get AU within 66-65 with 38.7 ticks remaining. The Trojans followed by coming up with a big defensive stop by tying up the ball in the lane at the 15.9 mark with the possession arrow in their favor. Benard then drove down the right side of the lane and dropped in the layup while drawing the foul and nailed the free throw to give AU a 68-66 lead with 8.3 seconds remaining.
But the Trojans still had to survive the final, frantic moments as Tusculum's Tariq Jenkins drove hard to the basket and drew a foul with just 2.2 on the clock. Jenkins, who stepped to the line having made 5-of-8 from the charity stripe on the night, missed the first and then intentionally missed the second attempt, while trying to regain possession for the Pioneers. He missed the rim and the Trojans successfully inbounded the ball to seal the win.
ANDERSON STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Trojans converted 17 Tusculum turnovers into 18 points.
• Jeremy Bouton needs 39 points to become the 14th player in program history to score at least 1,000 career points.
• The Trojans have won four straight and 16 of the last 19 meetings with Tusculum.
• AU won its third road contest of the season.
• The Pioneers won the rebounding battle, 42-33, and pulled down 14 offensive boards.
• The Trojans handed out 15 assists and have dished out double-figure assists in nine of their last 10 games.
• It was AU's first win of the season when the opponent was leading with a minute to play.
• Jeremy Bouton has played in 54 consecutive games.
The Trojans will return to the Electric City for a brief one-game homestand on Saturday, when Wingate invades the Abney Athletic Center. AU will be looking to earn a split of the regular-season series with Wingate and avenge an earlier 88-64 loss to the Bulldogs. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.