BRISTOL, Tenn. --- Lees-McRae sophomore Lepreece Lynch exploded for a game-high 22 points, but the men's basketball team dropped a gut-wrenching season-opener to Tusculum, 78-75, at the CC/SAC Challenge Friday evening at the Student Center in Bristol, Tenn.
The Pioneers (1-0) had four players in double figures, including 16 from Cory Fagan off the bench. The Bobcats (0-1) used 13 players while senior Austin Anderson (Anderson, S.C.) scored 11 in his Bobcat debut.
Both teams went 7-for-20 from three-point range.
Fagan knocked down a pair of triples to spark 10-4 midway through the first half, giving TC a 21-15 advantage.
LMC freshman Trey Hall (Orlando, Fla.) cut the lead in half with a triple of his own with 7:57 remaining in the first half.
Junior Jonathan Honore (Baton Rouge, La.) and senior Cameron Redd (Garner, N.C.) splashed shots from short range before a pair of made free throws from Lynch (Winston-Salem, N.C.) made it 26-25 Pioneers.
Junior Josh Gaither (Statesville, N.C.) got in the mix and gave the Bobcats a 32-31 after he drained a shot from downtown.
Both squads would exchange buckets in the last minute of the first half while an Anderson layup tied it at 34.
Senior Kendall Isler (Winder, Ga.) jumpstarted LMC's offense in the second while scoring six of the team's first eight points in a span of 4:15.
Coach Steve Hardin's squad stretched the lead to six, 49-43, after consecutive layups from Lynch and another three from Hall.
Freshman Jack Frank (Tampa, Fla.) cut through the Pioneer defense and made a layup before a pair of Lynch buckets made it 58-51.
TC's defense clamped down and help the Bobcats without a bucket for over three minutes while taking a 63-62 lead after a Zach Davis three.
Following a foul by TC's Darius Carter, Lynch calmly knocked down a trio of free throws, but a quick 5-0 run from the Pioneers gave TC the momentum and a 70-68 lead.
Anderson calmly scored the Bobcats next five points before an Isler layup put LMC up, 75-74, with 1:35 left in regulation.
TC's Chase Mounce tallied a tip in before Javon Price sank a pair of shots from the charity stripe with four ticks remaining to secure the win.
Isler finished with 14 points while Honore had seven.
Anderson and Gaither cleaned up the boards for LMC while combining for 17 rebounds.
The Bobcats have a quick turnaround and will face No. 5 Lincoln Memorial at 12 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 in Bristol, Tenn.
- LMC -