GREENVILLE, SC -- The 11th-ranked and top-seeded Railsplitters rallied in the second half to capture a 69-59 victory over the Carson-Newman University Eagles in the semifinals of the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Championship on Saturday evening at Timmons Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. With the win, Lincoln Memorial University (24-4) solidifies a spot in the championship game of the 2013 SAC Championship, slated to be held on Sunday afternoon in Greenville, while Carson-Newman's season comes to a close with a 20-8 overall mark.
After the first 20 minutes of action, the Railsplitters found themselves facing a 30-28 deficit. At the 14:38 mark of the second frame, the Eagles pushed their lead to 43-39 following a jumper by Antoine Davis, however, the 'Splitters answered with a 10-0 run over the next four minutes to assume a 49-43 advantage on a jumper by Tim Pierce with 10:51 to play. Lincoln Memorial would bend but never break over the final 10 minutes of action, as the Eagles cut the deficit to one on two different occasions. The final occurrence came at the 3:36 mark, as a pair of free throws by Carson Brooks made it 58-57 in favor of the Railsplitters. From that juncture, LMU closed the game on an 11-1 run, headlined by a five-for-six effort from the charity stripe in the final 1:06 of regulation to roll away with the victory.
Vincent Bailey paced the Railsplitters with a 17-point performance to go along with four rebounds, one block and an assist in only 21 minutes of action. Chance Jones was spectacular in 36 minutes of work for Lincoln Memorial, as he poured in 16 points, marked by an eight-for-10 effort from the charity stripe. He also put on the clamps defensively with three steals to lead all players in that category. Cam Carden fought through an injury from early in the game to record 12 points, four rebounds and a game-high five assists, while Dustin Craig led the Railsplitters to a commanding 37-26 advantage on the glass with a team-leading seven rebounds to go along with six points.
The Railsplitters finished with a 44.2% clip from the field and overcame a poor shooting night from beyond the three-point line (5-14) to assume the victory. Of the Railsplitters' 37 rebounds, 14 came on the offensive end, as they collected 17 second chance points off of those hustle plays and used several offensive boards late in the contest to kill time off the clock. Lincoln Memorial also narrowly won the turnover battle, edging the Eagles 11-12 in that category, using those 12 miscues by C-N to tally 22 points. The 'Splitters also created a six-point disparity at the free throw line, as they canned 18 of their 25 attempts to only a 12-for-20 mark by Carson-Newman.
The Eagles finished with a 44.7% effort from the field but also struggled from deep, tallying a 29.4% mark from the three. Ishmael Sanders led all scorers with 18 points despite a six-for-17 effort from the floor and a one-for-six mark from deep. South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year Antoine Davis chipped in with 16 points, while Carson Brooks lifted the Eagles with 12 points off the bench.
With the win, the top-billed Railsplitters secured a spot in the championship game of the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Championship, as they await the winner of the other semifinal game between No. 2 Anderson and No. 3 Wingate. That contest for the SAC crown is slated to tip at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon in Furman University's Timmons Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. With a win on Sunday, the Railsplitters would earn their second South Atlantic Conference tournament championship over the past three seasons, as they claimed the top prize in the league in 2011.