HARROGATE, TN - On a night dedicated to recognizing the accomplishments of the two-winningest players in program history, it was only right that seniors Vincent Bailey and Chance Jones put on a show. That duo combined for 53 points, leading the 13th-ranked Railsplitters to a whirlwind 110-61 win over the Catawba Indians in the regular-season finale at Tex Turner Arena on Saturday.
Lincoln Memorial University (24-2, 20-2 SAC) finds itself in what has become a familiar place heading into the SAC Championship: holding down the No.1 seed. The Railsplitters rode a 13-game winning streak from November 30 to February 1 as well as a current seven-game flourish to their second-consecutive SAC regular-season title and third in the last four years under head coach Josh Schertz. Lincoln Memorial will host its quarterfinal round match-up for the fourth-consecutive year, and the Railsplitters drew old nemesis Wingate for that contest as the Bulldogs slipped to the eight-seed after winning the SAC Championship title in back-to-back seasons.
Seniors Vincent Bailey (Jennings, FL) and Chance Jones (Knoxville, TN) were honored prior to the start of Saturday's contest as a part of the Senior Night festivities, and those two individuals aptly put on a show in front of a raucous crowd of more than 3,000 in their final regular-season game at Tex Turner Arena. Bailey torched the Indians with a career night to cement his legacy as one of the greats in program history. The Jennings, Florida product racked up 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting while adding a career-best 21 rebounds, finishing with his 13th double-double of the season. Not to be outdone, Jones poured in 19 points with four boards, two assists and a steal.
Bailey and Jones fronted a lethal LMU attack that racked up 110 points on 52 percent shooting (39-for-75) bolstered by an 8-for-15 clip from beyond the three-point line. All but one of LMU's ten players who appeared in Saturday's contest registered at least one field goal, while the Railsplitters knocked down 24 of their 34 free-throw attempts. Tim Pierce (Albany, GA) registered 11 points and four boards in 26 minutes, and Paul Woodson (Cincinnati, OH) collected 16 points in 24 minutes off the bench. Keenan Peterson (College Park, GA) pitched in eight points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes, while Curtis Webb (Spartanburg, SC) corralled seven rebounds to go along with six points.
Bailey and Jones became the two-winningest players in the history of the men's basketball program back on February 22 with a win at Wingate, and each win going forward extends that record even further. Since arriving at Lincoln Memorial for the 2010-11 season, Bailey and Jones have accumulated a gaudy 102-17 record which stands as the new benchmark in the South Atlantic Conference over a four-year stretch. The duo is largely responsible for the Railsplitters shedding their former identity as conference punch line to its place as conference standard, hanging four banners in the Tex Turner Arena rafters including this season's SAC regular-season title.
The result of Saturday's affair was never in question as the Railsplitters knocked down 20 of their 36 first-half field-goal attempts while limiting the Indians to a dismal 8-for-32 clip, carrying a 47-25 advantage into the break. The first 20 minutes were representative of the full picture the Railsplitters painted defensively. Lincoln Memorial held Catawba to only 30.4 percent shooting with a 2-for-15 clip from three-point land. The Railsplitters additionally forced 13 turnovers which were converted into 13 points.
Tyrece Little paced the Indians with 23 points on 9-of-24 shooting to go along with a team-leading 10 rebounds. Little was the only Indian to collect more than six rebounds as the Railsplitters racked up a dominant 61-35 effort on the glass headlined by 22 offensive rebounds that led to 24 second-chance points. Little was also the only member of Catawba's rotation to log double-digit points as Troy Warren, Chris Watson and Jalen Byrd notched eight points apiece.
The Railsplitters will spend the next 24 hours reveling in regular-season glory before turning their attention back to the postseason road ahead which begins in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Championship against eight-seeded Wingate, who has been lined up on the other side of a number of both watershed victories as well as heartbreaking losses. The Railsplitters clinched the SAC regular-season title in each of the last two seasons with wins against the Bulldogs, but Wingate has eliminated LMU from the last three SAC tournaments, including the title game of the 2013 event. LMU claimed the 2011 Food Lion SAC Championship with a 68-58 win over the Bulldogs.
The Railsplitters and Bulldogs are scheduled to tip-off the 2014 SAC Championship on Wednesday, March 5 at 8 p.m. inside of Tex Turner Arena.