NEWBERRY, S.C. – Strong Indian defense forced Mars Hill into 18 turnovers and 35% shooting from the floor as Newberry avenged an earlier season loss to the Lions, 75-63, in men’s college basketball action Saturday afternoon at Eleazer Arena. The victory, coupled with a Presbyterian loss to Tusculum, propelled Newberry (10-10, 4-4 SAC) into a tie for third place in the South Atlantic Conference. Mars Hill (9-12, 2-6) slides into a tie for last place in the league with the loss.
The home team withstood an early 5-0 Mars Hill surge, scoring nine unanswered points in less than two minutes, and never looked back. Newberry capitalized on 11 first-half Lion turnovers, scoring 17 points from those errors. Michael Dease (Bennettsville, S.C.), with 10 first-half points, led the Indians to as much as a 19-point lead before settling for a 38-23 advantage at the break.
Mars Hill would trail by as many as 21 with 16:49 remaining in the second half, but came roaring back with pressure defense of its own that took Newberry out of rhythm. Ronald Lewis (New Orleans, La.) stepped up big in the final period, scoring 26 of his season-high 35 points. MHC cut the lead to eight at 59-51 with four minutes left, but would get no closer.
Newberry, typically very good at the free throw line, finished the evening with only 53.1% accuracy from the stripe. At one point, the Indians converted only five of 14 attempts, but made the ones that mattered—Newberry was good on 12 of its final 16 attempts to preserve the win.
“I was very proud of the team effort today,” Newberry head coach David Conrady remarked on his team’s performance. “Brandon Moses (Aiken, S.C.) sank some big free throws to maintain the lead when we, as a team, had a difficult time making them. Remove the free throw shooting, and this would have been a perfect game for us. We did what we wanted to do.
“Mars Hill has had our number. They won both meetings last year, one by a deuce, and the meeting this year on their floor. It’s nice to finally get over that hump.”
The Lions were able to climb back into the game when Newberry’s 58.6% first-half shooting plummeted to 39.1% after halftime. “We were up fifteen-plus points in the second half, and we changed the game plan trying to hold the lead,” Conrady said of the drop-off. “When you drop back and aren’t pressuring the ball, the turnovers aren’t there and the resulting layups aren’t there. Plus, Ronald Lewis found his rhythm, and when he takes the ball to the basket, he’s hard to guard. That’s why he’s preseason first team all-conference.”
Newberry, at .500 for the first time this season, will attempt to string together three wins when they travel to conference-leading Lenoir-Rhyne for a Wednesday night matchup. Mars Hill will host Carson Newman on the 11th, and both games begin at 8 p.m.