SALISBURY — A spirited second-half rally wasn’t enough for Catawba Saturday.
The Indians never recovered from a 19-point first half in a 68-63 loss to Tusculum, who got its first SAC victory.
Catawba (4-8, 1-3) cut its deficit to 3 in the final seconds after trailing by as much as 24 midway through the second half. After snapping a six-game skid against Brevard Wednesday, any good remaining feelings were forgotten.
“I was disappointed with how we approached today,” Catawba coach Jim Baker said. “I think we thought it was going to be easy and it wasn’t.”
Shooting woes did Catawba in from the outset. The Indians were 7 of 32 from the floor in the first half, including 0 of 8 from behind the arc. Starters Elon Edwards, Reggie Perkins and Lee Martin were a combined 0 for 11 in the first half. After trailing 32-19 at halftime, Catawba continued to struggle as it didn’t hit a shot for the first seven minutes of the second half.
“I thought we did a great job defensively in the first half,” Tusculum coach Michael Jones said. “We did a great job on Lee Martin, Tyrece Little and [Elon] Edwards. They’re excellent players.”
Tusculum (3-9. 1-3) guard Addison Flynn posted a career-high 32 points after hitting 19 of 22 free throws. Flynn, Keith Jumper and Devin Call all hit shots in the first two minutes of the second half and it was 38-19 with Catawba forced to take a timeout.
“He’s our leader and I did think he’d come out with a vengeance,” Jones said. “He didn’t shoot that well Wednesday.”
The Pioneers stretched the lead past 20 when Flynn got the line three straight times and hit 5 of 6 from the stripe for a 43-20 edge.
The Indians did rally thanks to a 14-2 second-half run. Martin buried two 3’s inbetween a Elon Edwards layup and it was 47-37 with 8:19 left. They got closer after Edwards dunked on a fast break and Little caught an alley oop from Edwards to make it 52-47 with 3:10 left. Tusculum got some key stops and pushed the lead back out to 60-51 with 1:36 left. Little took a charge at the other end and later hit a free throw to pull within four.
The Indians got closest on a layup from Edwards with three seconds left. Flynn hit two free throws with 1.4 ticks remaining for the final score. Tusculum hit 28 of 36 free throws to seal the win.
“It’s sort of one step up, two steps back,” Baker said. “We’re really sort of a work in progress in that we’re so young out there.”
Martin posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“We had too big a deficit to make up,” Martin said. “I don’t think we were ready. I think it was mostly our defense not stopping them.”
Edwards came back from a knee bruise he suffered early in the second half to total 16 points and six assists. Little finished with 12 points and nine boards.
“The other team’s going to make some runs and you can’t drop your head,” Baker said. “I’m proud of how we came back.”
TUSCULUM (68) — Flynn 32, Call 13, Miller 7, Spinks 6, Jumper 5, Tuz 2, Carter 2, Fox 1, Shown.
CATAWBA (63) — Martin 18, Edwards 16, Little 12, Sampah 8, Watson 7, Marijosius 2, Perkins, Houston, Coleman.
Tusculum 32 36 — 68
Catawba 19 44 — 63