Ellis Leads Trojans over Tusculum in Conference Opener

Ellis Leads Trojans over Tusculum in Conference Opener

ANDERSON, S.C. – Paced by senior guard Gage Ellis' season-high 32 points, the Anderson men's basketball team wrapped up its three-game homestand with a 69-64 win over Tusculum in the South Atlantic Conference opener for both teams, Wednesday night at the Abney Athletic Center.

Anderson improved to 4-2 on the season and remained undefeated at home on the season with its third straight win. Tusculum (3-4, 0-1 SAC) saw its' win streak halted at two games.

Ellis netted his season-high on 14-of-22 shooting from the field, while also grabbing two rebounds, dishing out a pair of assists and swiping two steals. The Greenville, S.C., native scored 19 points in the decisive second half. Senior guard Andrew Boynton added a season-high 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, including three 3-pointers – all in the first half. Junior guard Shawn Benard chipped in nine points, a team-high five rebounds and handed out a game-high five assists, while recording a pair of steals.

First Half
The Trojans erased a nine-point, first-half deficit with a late surge that was fueled by the senior guard duo of Ellis and Boynton.

With the Trojans misfiring on their first three shots from the field and committing four turnovers in the first four minutes of action, the Pioneers jumped out to a 13-4 lead with just less than 14 minutes on the clock. But AU countered with a flurry of seven unanswered points in less than two minutes to trim the Tusculum advantage to just two points with 12:29 left in the half.

The Pioneers pushed back out to a 26-18 cushion with more than four minutes on the clock, but AU answered with 13 straight points to claim its largest lead of the opening frame, at 31-26, at the 1:22 mark. Ellis ignited the rally with a driving, twisting layup and Boynton followed with a 3-pointer from the top of the circle. Ellis then scored five straight points - with a traditional three-point play that knotted the score for the first time, at 26 apiece, and added a layup. Boynton followed with a trey from the right corner that capped the outburst and gave AU the five-point edge.

However, Tusculum closed the frame with five straight points to knot the score at 31-31 at the break.

Second Half
The first eight minutes of the second frame saw four lead changes, as Benard opened the half with his lone trey of the night from the left side and the Pioneers responded with an 11-2 run to claim a five-point lead with more than 15 minutes remaining in the contest.

Trailing, 46-42, with 14:05 on the clock, the Trojans put together a 9-0 surge fueled by Ellis' seven points that gave them a lead they refused to surrender. AU opened a six-point lead - its' largest lead of the contest – on three occasions and Boynton connected on the back end of a pair of free throw opportunities inside the final 35 seconds to help hold off the Pioneers down the stretch.

The Trojans forced a season-high 23 turnovers and converted the miscues into 27 points.

• The Pioneers won the battle of the boards, 39-26, and pulled down 13 offensive rebounds.
• The Trojans improved to 15-5 in the overall series with Tusculum.
• AU claimed its third straight win over the Pioneers and its fourth decision in five meetings with Tusculum.
• The Trojans improved to 6-3 in league openers since joining the SAC for the 2010-11 campaign.
• The Trojans have reached double-figure assists in three straight games and five of their six outings.
Gage Ellis has reached double-figure scoring in all six games.

Anderson goes on the road for a brief one-game road swing, when the Trojans visit 23rd-ranked Queens in Charlotte, Saturday afternoon. Tip-off versus the defending Southeast Region Champion Royals is slated for 4 p.m. at the Levine Center.