NEWBERRY – Newberry kicked off the 2017-18 campaign with a 71-56 win over nonconference foe Erskine in the Little Four SAC-Conference Carolinas Challenge on Friday evening inside Eleazer Arena.
The Wolves (1-0) nailed 13 triples, just off its nation-leading average of 14.2 a season ago, and forced 19 turnovers while limiting the Flying Fleet (0-1) to 35.5 percent (22-for-62) from the field and a paltry 20.7 percent (6-for-29) from behind the arc.
Newberry’s James Stepp led all scorers with 17 points, all coming before the intermission. The senior guard went 6-for-6 from the field over the first 20 minutes, including knocking down all five of his three-point attempts. He also finished with a game-high four assists, helping the Wolves to 16 assists on 24 made baskets.
Newberry struggled to score in the early going, falling behind 9-2 nearly four minutes into the contest before Stepp finally broke a string of eight consecutive missed shots with his first three-pointer of the day at the 15:37 mark of the half.
The shot ignited the Newberry offense, sparking a 38-8 run spanning 14 minutes as the Wolves saw their margin swell to 23 points on a Nick Dietrich triple late in the half. Erskine had cut the deficit to a single point at 16-15 before the Wolves went on to score 24 of the next 26 points and put the game out of reach.
During the 14-minute span, Newberry’s defense held the Flying Fleet to 21.1 percent on 4-for-19 from the field and scored 24 points off 10 Erskine turnovers.
A 10-2 Erskine run trimmed the Newberry lead to 10 points with just under eight minutes remaining in the contest, but a D.J. Copeland triple snuffed out the Fleet’s most potent comeback attempt and helped the Wolves cruise to the 15-point victory.
The Fleet was led by Austin Venable’s double-double as the junior accounted for 14 points and 11 rebounds. Jaywaun Washington poured in 13 points.
Rob Valentine scored 15 points in support of Stepp, while D.J. Copeland (9), Nick Dietrich (8), Quaman Burton (6), and Marshall Lange (6) gave the Wolves multiple scoring threats. Burton paced the Wolves with eight rebounds, while the 6-8 Max Miller provided five boards and a blocked shot to go along with four points in his first collegiate game.
Newberry returns to action tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. against North Greenville in Game 3 of the Little Four SAC-Conference Carolinas Challenge. Fans can be admitted to the game for free by presenting a ticket stub from Newberry’s Senior Day football game against Mars Hill at the door. North Greenville defeated Coker 92-84 in overtime earlier Friday to begin their season 1-0.