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Players make plays in C-N win

Carson-Newman coach Chuck Benson, a Newport native, speaks to his team in a second half timeout on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Benson was named as the 2012-13 South Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year.
Published: 2:43 PM, 03/07/2013 Last updated: 2:43 PM, 03/07/2013

Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

JEFFERSON CITY-Earlier on Wednesday, Carson-Newman mens’ basketball coach Chuck Benson was named the South Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year.

Wednesday night, with his team in a fight for their lives against Lenoir-Rhyne in the conference tournament quarterfinals, his players rose to the occasion and helped the Eagles to their first semifinal appearance in three seasons.

It was only fitting, after Benson attributed his postseason award to the players that make up the Eagles roster in his third year at the helm of the squad.

“I’m very thankful and humble, but the truth of the matter is a coach isn’t a coach without the players,” Benson said after Wednesday’s victory. “It all goes back to the players.

“It’s those guys that help you have those kind of nice awards,” Benson said.

Carson-Newman trailed 21-14 with under seven minutes remaining until halftime. The game however turned on a dime when the Eagles used a 22-2 run over the next 11 minutes of the game.

Lenoir-Rhyne was forced into 10 turnovers over that 11-minute span, which enabled the Eagles to briefly take full command of the quarterfinal round affair.

The defensive effort was something that Benson had stressed in preparation for his biggest game at Carson-Newman. With a struggling offense, which saw the Eagles limp into the postseason by dropping their past two games, he implored his team to control what they could control.

“I told the guys if we can’t score more, what else can we control but our defense, our rebounding and our effort,” Benson said. “We knew our offense had struggled lately, so we had to find something else to do.”

That is exactly where the Eagles found themselves with seven minutes remaining in Wednesday night’s first half.

Five turnovers, coming via the defense of Antoine Davis and Marcellous Perez, enabled the Eagles to take the lead for good with 4:37 remaining before the half. The lead continued to grow to a 28-23 margin at halftime.

Davis had four steals in the defensive blitz which brought the Eagles off the deck and into the lead.
“(Davis) is a baller, he brings it,” Benson said. “He’s a kid that’s so tough mentally and loves to win and compete.

“He’s another kid that didn’t want to go home tonight,” Benson said.

Davis, who was named South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year on Wednesday, also capitalized on Benson’s other point of emphasis. The Eagles junior from Rustburg, Virginia had a team-high 10 rebounds to go along with his 14 points. Davis’ effort on the boards helped the Eagles hold a four rebound edge over Lenoir-Rhyne.

“We told our guys before the game, that in games where we’ve been out rebounded by five or more -we’ve not won any of those games,” Benson said. “So it was kind of like the kids said if that’s the case, we’ve got to rebound the basketball.

“They’re traditionally a physical, tough rebounding team, but out kids out rebounded them by four and kept them off the offensive boards, so we were really pleased with how we played,” Benson said.

The result was even more pleasing as it sends the Eagles to the SAC Semifinals, where they will face No. 11 ranked Lincoln Memorial University, which dispatched Tusculum 82-53 on Wednesday. The win also gave Carson-Newman its first 20-win season for the first time in a decade.

“They knew it was a win and advance or a lose and the season ends type of game,” Benson said. “Some of the kids have enjoyed this year and we’ve won a lot more than we’ve lost.

“I think some guys maybe just weren’t ready for the thing to end and get another chance to play,” Benson said. “All the credit goes to the players (tonight).”

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