AIKEN, SC -- The 13th-ranked and second-seeded Railsplitters rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to cut to within two points with 9:40 remaining, however, the three-seeded Barton College Bulldogs closed the game on a 21-8 run to oust Lincoln Memorial from the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional, 76-61, on Sunday in Aiken, South Carolina.
For the second-consecutive season, Lincoln Memorial University (25-6) saw their season come to a close in the semifinals of the Southeast Regional, while Barton (23-7) advances to the Southeast Regional Final where they await the winner of No. 4 Wingate and No. 1 USC-Aiken.
The Railsplitters and Bulldogs played to a near draw throughout much of the first half, as the two teams met in five ties while the lead changed hands nine times over the first 13 minutes of action. The largest lead for either team over that span was a 16-13 advantage for Lincoln Memorial on a layup by Chance Jones at the 11:52 mark, while Barton grabbed a 7-4 lead on a offensive rebound and a dunk by Jon Hart at the 17:18 mark.
Vincent Bailey brought the game to its final tie of the first half with a layup at the 6:39 mark to square the game at 21-21. However, the Bulldogs were the beneficiaries of the final lead change of the period, as they used two three-pointers by Chris Flemmings and another by Tristan Thomas to run out 11-unanswered points and take a 32-21 lead by the 4:37 mark.
Chance Jones stopped the bleeding for Lincoln Memorial with a six-for-six effort from the charity stripe over the last four minutes of the half, but the Railsplitters were held without a field goal for the remainder of the half following Bailey's game-tying bucket with 6:39 left. From the 11:03 mark of the first stanza, the Railsplitters were limited to only two field goals. The Bulldogs answered Jones' six free throws to end the half with two free throws apiece by Chris Flemmings and Gerald Boston to go into the break holding a 38-27 lead.
The two-headed attack of Gerald Boston and Chris Flemmings carried the Bulldogs' offensive attack in the first half, as those two combined for 24 points with Boston leading that duo with 14. Barton was held to only 35% shooting in the frame, however, they canned six three-pointers and earned a 22-20 advantage on the glass, with nine offensive boards, to assume the lead.
The full-court pressure by the Bulldogs limited the Railsplitters to only 33% shooting in the half and forced LMU into committing eight turnovers. Chance Jones spearheaded the offensive attack in the first frame with eight points.
Coming out of the break, Lincoln Memorial snapped out of their offensive funk from the opening half, as they cut the deficit back to 47-43 at the 15:32 mark of regulation on a three by Cam Carden, which capped a 9-0 run for the Railsplitters. Lincoln Memorial was seven-for-eight from the field over that opening stretch of the second half which fueled the comeback.
Keith Manley followed Carden's three with a pair of free throws, but Chance Jones answered for the Railsplitters on the other end with a layup to keep the score at only a four-point advantage in favor of the Bulldogs with 14:29 to play.
Barton briefly extended their lead out to eight at 53-45 following four-unanswered points by Gerald Boston, however, the Railsplitters fought back, using a 8-2 run fueled by four points from Dustin Craig and capped with a jumper by Tim Pierce at the 9:40 mark to make it a two-point game.
Despite cutting to within two, the Railsplitters would go dormant on the offensive end while the Bulldogs would reassert themselves offensively for the remainder. The Bulldogs broke away from the Railsplitters with a 9-2 run concluded with a pair of jumpers by Gerald Boston to extend their lead back to 64-55 at the 6:25 mark. The Railsplitters briefly countered with a jump shot by Vincent Bailey and two free throws by Lorenza Ross, however, Barton scored six-unanswered points to push out to a double-digit lead which the Railsplitters were unable to overcome.
After Tim Pierce netted his jumper to cut the deficit to two at the 9:40 mark, the Railsplitters were limited to only one field goal for the remainder of the game, as the Bulldogs finished on a 21-8 run to grab the victory. The only other points over that span for the Railsplitters came at the charity stripe.
The Railsplitters rebounded from a poor shooting performance in the opening half to tally a 43.5% clip from the field, however, they finished with a three-for-11 mark from long range. LMU was edged 38-34 on the boards, while Barton also won the turnover battle, 16-7.
The loss by Lincoln Memorial spoiled a stellar performance by junior guard Chance Jones (Knoxville, TN), as he notched 18 points with 10 coming in the second half. Jones nailed four of his eight shots from the field and went a perfect nine-for-nine from the charity stripe, battling through foul trouble to turn in a gutsy outing for the Railsplitters. The only other Railsplitter in double figures was Vincent Bailey (Jennings, FL), as the junior forward posted 12 points in 28 minutes of action.
Senior Dustin Craig (Knoxville, TN) put in nine points and matched a team-high with eight rebounds off the bench in his final game with the Railsplitters. Also playing in his final game, Jake Troyli (Largo, FL) raked in eight rebounds but struggled offensively with only two points. Lorenza Ross (Savannah, GA) chipped in with seven points.
Senior Cam Carden (Clearwater, FL) played all 40 minutes for the Railsplitters, contributing five points, three assists and a rebound in the final game of his brilliant career at Lincoln Memorial.
The Bulldogs were limited to only a 41.3% effort from the field, however, they drained eight threes in the game and went a nearly unblemished 16-for-17 from the charity stripe. Gerald Boston was the story of the contest for Barton, as he compiled a game-high 30 points, marked by a 10-for-10 effort from the free-throw line. Boston added a game-high seven assists and three boards in 37 minutes of work.
Keith Manley added 12 points on five-of-11 shooting, while Chris Flemmings sparked the Bulldogs off the bench with 13 points on a three-for-seven mark from deep.
The Bulldogs amassed 17 more shots than the Railsplitters in the contest, as they used 15 offensive rebounds to provide extra possessions.
The 2012-13 season saw Lincoln Memorial record their fourth-consecutive 20-win season, as they have amassed a 98-24 mark over that span. Four-year seniors Wally Jones, Cam Carden and Dustin Craig will leave LMU as the all-time winningest players in the history of the program. The Railsplitters will begin the 2013-14 season in the midst of a South Atlantic Conference record streak of 42-consecutive weeks ranked inside the NABC/Division II national poll.