HARROGATE, TN - The 14th-ranked Railsplitters closed on an 8-0 run to overcome the upset-hungry Brevard Tornados and clinch at least a share of the South Atlantic Conference regular-season title with a 101-93 victory at Tex Turner Arena on Wednesday.
Lincoln Memorial University (21-2, 17-2 SAC) won its fourth-straight game by holding off the hot-shooting Tornados (4-19, 4-15 SAC) with a bold closing stretch. The Railsplitters retained its three-game lead in the conference standings and, with three games remaining, assured at least a tie for the top spot in the championship race. A win on Saturday's visit to Wingate would nab the outright South Atlantic Conference championship, marking the program's third league title in the last four seasons.
The Railsplitters finished with a blistering 36-for-61 effort from the field and a 24-for-29 clip at the charity stripe, and Lincoln Memorial needed every bit of that offensive production to withstand the Tornados' torrential shooting. Brevard stuck 48.6 percent of its shots and nailed 13 three-pointers to record the most prolific scoring outing by an LMU opponent in over a year.
The Railsplitters and Tornados collided in a 93-93 tie with 1:05 left after Darius Moose clanged in his 29th point by knocking down one of his two free throw attempts. Following that freebie, the Railsplitters used a beautiful stretch to authoritatively grab a four-point advantage. Tim Pierce (Albany, GA) kicked off that push with a driving left-handed lay-up at the 48-second mark. On the ensuing Brevard possession, Vincent Bailey (Jennings, FL) intercepted a pass from Miles Leathers, shot down court and flushed in a crushing slam.
The final 35 seconds saw Brevard miss three three-pointers, a rarity for a team that drilled 13-of-30 attempts from beyond the arc. Over that same stretch, Luquon Choice (Laurens, SC) and Chance Jones (Knoxville, TN) banged in a pair of free throws apiece to ice LMU's hard-fought victory.
Jones finished the evening with 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, one assist and one block. And the Knoxville, Tennessee native's stat line wasn't even the most impressive by a Railsplitter, as Vincent Bailey collected 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting with eight boards, four blocks and two steals. Tim Pierce collected 14 points in 26 minutes, while Lorenza Ross (Savannah, GA) dished out nine assists to go along with 13 points. Paul Woodson (Cincinnati, OH) provided a nice lift off the bench, logging six points and six rebounds in 15 minutes.
The Railsplitters handed out 15 or more assists for the third time since the calendar switched to 2014, dishing out 16 with only 11 turnovers. The Tornados exceeded that mark, recording 19 assists with only six turnovers in the contest. Brevard's final turnover, which led to Bailey's slam, proved costly as it was two of only eight points the Railsplitters scored off of the Tornado miscues.
Additionally, the Railsplitters logged a 42-26 advantage on the glass. Along with Bailey's eight boards, Keenan Peterson (College Park, GA) raked in nine rebounds and Curtis McMillion (Fayetteville, NC) grabbed four with three blocks in 14 minutes.
The trio of Darius Moose, Alex Moe and Dominique Pickett combined for 71 of Brevard's 93 points. Moose led all players with 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting, while Moe and Pickett each pitched in 21 points. Moe drained four three-pointers, grabbed five rebounds and blocked a shot in 32 minutes. Pickett was 3-for-6 from deep with four boards and three assists. Miles Leathers was productive in 36 minutes for the Tornados, scoring 11 points, dishing out five assists and corralling a team-high six boards.
The Railsplitters extended its winning streak versus Brevard to six games and avoided a repeat of a letdown at Brevard nearly three years ago to the day, when then fifth-ranked Lincoln Memorial dropped an 82-77 decision to suffer its first loss of the season. While nine of LMU's 13 wins over Brevard have come by double-digits, three have been decided in the final possession including a 73-71 win at Brevard last season.
Looming on the horizon, the Railsplitters hit the road for the final time during the 2013-14 campaign on Saturday, February 22, completing a stretch of four games in seven days with a South Atlantic Conference test against the Wingate Bulldogs. A win in Saturday's contest, which tips at 4 p.m., would clinch the Railsplitters' third outright conference championship in four seasons.