GREENWOOD – The Lander men's basketball team dropped its home opener as Caleb Hodnett scored 21 points and Tusculum College took advantage of a big rebounding edge, spoiling the Bearcats' Horne Arena debut, 73-62, on Wednesday night
The Bearcats fell to 1-2 on the season. The Pioneers earned their first victory, improving to 1-2.
Tusculum out-rebounded Lander 56-41, grabbing 23 offensive boards which led to several baskets.
The 6-foot-8 Hodnett made nine of his first 11 shots from the floor and had scored all 21 of his points three minutes into the second half. He missed his last four shots, finishing 9 of 15. His 13 rebounds gave him a double-double.
Donovan Donaldson added 14 points and Trenton Gibson 12 for the Pioneers. Cam King led Tusculum with 14 rebounds.
Marquel Wiggins paced the Bearcats with 17 points while Rahu Purdie added 11 points. But Lander went six minutes without a basket from the floor late in the second half, thwarting its comeback effort.
There were four ties and five lead changes in the first 13 minutes of the game. Down 24-20, the Bearcats regained the lead when Purdie made a long 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire and then Morris Robinson Jr. stole a pass and drove in for a layup to make it 25-24.
King spun around in the lane and converted a layup, giving Tusculum a 34-27 lead with 2:15 until halftime. The Bearcats responded with Wiggins grabbing an offensive board and making a fade-away jumper, and Robinson Jr. driving the baseline for a layup as Lander was within 34-31 at the break.
The Pioneers took their first double-digit lead when Tariq Jenkins made a put-back, giving the visitors a 46-36 advantage with 17:30 to go. Brandon Mitchell's two free throws made it 57-45 with 11:37 left.
Tusculum's lead was still 12 with seven minutes to go, 63-51.
Over the next two minutes, Lander cut its deficit to seven with Jordan Dingle making two free throws and Wiggins hitting three of four free throws to make it 63-56.
Wiggins answered King's put-back with two more free throws, pulling the Bearcats within 65-58 at the 4:18 mark.
A free throw by Jenkins put Tusculum back into a double-digit lead at 68-58 with 2:44 to go.
After Lander went scoreless from the floor for almost six minutes, Knight ended the drought with a put-back layup cutting the Bearcat deficit to 68-60 with 1:54 left. It was Lander's first basket from the floor since Purdie's layup at the 7:41 mark. But the teams played to a 7-all tie during that stretch.
However, after Knight's basket, the Pioneers were able to put the game away from the free-throw line.