WINGATE, NC -- The 12th-ranked Railsplitters locked up the No. 1 seed in the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament and at least a share of the SAC regular season championship with a 63-60 to win over the Wingate University Bulldogs on Wednesday evening in Wingate, North Carolina. With the win, Lincoln Memorial University (21-4, 14-3 SAC) grabbed their fifth-consecutive victory and capped season sweep over Wingate (17-8, 13-4 SAC).
By capturing the victory over the Bulldogs, who were tied with the Railsplitters atop the SAC standings heading into tonight's contest, the Railsplitters sealed the No. 1 seed for the SAC Tournament and put themselves in prime position to win the regular season championship. A win over Catawba College on Saturday night would clinch the SAC regular season championship outright, earning the Railsplitters' their second title in the Josh Schertz era. The Railsplitters won both the 2010-11 SAC regular season and tournament championships.
Alongside the storyline involving the South Atlantic Conference implications of the win, senior Cam Carden became the 23rd player to join the 1,000 Point Club at Lincoln Memorial, as he netted 16 points on four-of-seven shooting with three trifectas to move his career total to 1,004 points scored.
Offensively, the Railsplitters were led to victory by the stellar effort of junior forward Vincent Bailey. Bailey led all scorers with 21 points on the night, grinding out that mark on a seven-for-16 effort from the field with a seven-for-10 mark from the charity stripe, while pacing Lincoln Memorial to a 39-34 rebounding advantage with a team-leading 11 boards. Dustin Craig sparked the 'Splitters off the bench with eight points on three-of-four shooting. Lorenza Ross bolstered the LMU offensive attack by chipping in with seven points, dishing out four assists and reigning in five rebounds.
The Railsplitters finished with a 41.7% mark from the field, edging the Bulldogs, who were limited to a 40.3% clip marked with a dismal one-for-19 effort from long range. Odell Turner headlined Wingate's offensive efforts with 18 points on eight-of-13 shooting to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds. He was aided by the performance of Ryan Daye, as he turned in 13 points. Daye needed 17 shots to tally that mark, connecting on only four of those field-goal attempts. The Railsplitters limited Turner's back court running mate Deion Turman to only two points on one-for-three shooting in the contest.
Lincoln Memorial earned the victory despite being outscored 42-24 in the paint and committing 13 turnovers which led to 14 points for the Bulldogs.
In a back and forth contest that saw the game tied on six occasions and the lead switch hands 14 times, the Railsplitters found a way to come up on the top of the final momentum shift. The Bulldogs used a layup by Xavier Griffin to take a 52-51 lead with 6:25 remaining in regulation. From that juncture, the Railsplitters got three free throws from Cam Carden and a pair of freebies from Vincent Bailey to swing a 5-0 run and take a 56-52 lead with 5:26 to play.
The Railsplitters would bend but never break over the final five minutes of action, as Paidrick Matilus nailed two free throws to cut the lead back to two at the 3:33 mark. Cam Carden answered again for Lincoln Memorial with a jumper and a free throw to extend the lead to 59-54 with 2:47 left to play. The two teams exchanged free throws over the final minutes with the Railsplitters netting a freebie with 22 seconds left to make it 61-56. Ethan Kincaid quickly answered with a bucket on the other end for the Bulldogs but Jake Troyli made one of his two attempts at the charity stripe to push it back to a two-possession game. Kincaid once again scored for the Bulldogs to cut the game to 62-60 with eight seconds left and Troyli was fouled and sent to the line on the ensuing in-bounds play. After making one of his two attempts on his second go around, the Bulldogs had a game-winning attempt but Ryan Daye's shot went begging to give the Railsplitters a 63-60 victory in Wingate, Nort h Carolina.
The difference in the game came at the charity stripe, as the Railsplitters were sent to the line 27 times and connected on 19 of those attempts.
Lincoln Memorial is set to return to Tex Turner Arena on Saturday and cap the regular-season schedule with a matchup against the Catawba Indians. With a win in that contest, the Railsplitters would seal the South Atlantic Conference regular season championship outright. The night will also serve as Senior Day, as Cam Carden, Dustin Craig, Wally Jones, Jake Troyli and Jairocey Simpson are set to be honored in their final regular season game in Harrogate, Tennessee. That game is scheduled to tip at 8 p.m.