AIKEN, SC -- The 13th-ranked/second-seeded Railsplitters are set to make their third-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with the quarterfinal matchup of the 2013 NCAA Southeast Regional against seventh-seeded UNC Pembroke, slated for 2:30 p.m. tip in USC Aiken's Convocation Center.
Host USC Aiken unveiled the game times for Saturday's quarterfinal action earlier this week, and the Railsplitters drew the second game of the afternoon with a 2:30 tipoff against the Braves of UNC Pembroke. Prior to LMU's contest, No. 3 Barton (21-7) and No. 6 Montevallo (20-9) are knotted for a 12 p.m. tip to decide who advances to the semifinals to face the winner of the duel between Lincoln Memorial and Pembroke. On the other half of the bracket, top-seeded USC Aiken (22-7) faces off against eight-seeded Belmont Abbey (22-9), who earned the Conference Carolinas' automatic bid upon capturing the tournament championship. That game is scheduled to tip a 5 p.m. with the final contest of the day immediately following, as No. 4 Wingate (21-8) and No. 5 Limestone (21-8) duke it out at 7:30 p.m. to secure the last spot in the semifinals. The two semifinal matchups are slated for 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, while the championship is notched for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar ch 19.
In Saturday's battle with No. 7 UNC Pembroke (22-9), the Railsplitters will have to contend with one of the most potent offenses in the southeast region and the Division II level. Coming into that contest, the Braves rank 19th in the NCAA Division II in scoring offense at 81.2 points per game. The Braves are led offensively by the three-headed attack of Shahmel Brackett, George Blakeney and Quamain Rose, as those three combine to tally 43.7 points per competition. All-Peach Belt Conference Second Team selection Shamel Brackett, a 6'0", 180-pound guard, leads that trio with 16.3 points and 3.2 assists per game, as well as a 39.6% clip from long range. All-PBC First Team honoree George Blakeney provides the Braves with 14.7 points per and 9.9 boards per, which ranks 14th in the nation at the Division II level. The 6'9", 255-pound senior tallied 16 double-doubles this season and finished with a 56.2% mark from the field. Quamain Rose, a 6'0", 170-pound guard, earn ed Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year laurels after pouring in 12.7 points, 3.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game in his debut season with the Braves.
This will be only the second matchup between Lincoln Memorial and UNC Pembroke in program history, as the Railsplitters came away with a 64-52 victory over the Braves in Pembroke, North Carolina on December 29, 2006 to establish a 1-0 all-time series lead. The Railsplitters and Braves shared three common opponents from the 2012-13 schedule, as UNC Pembroke took on SAC foes Wingate and Catawba to go along with two contests against PBC foe Augusta State. The Railsplitters hold a a 4-2 record against those opponents with the four wins coming in two regular-season triumphs over Wingate, a win in Augusta over the Jaguars and a win in the regular-season finale against Catawba. The 'Splitters dropped the SAC Tournament Championship to Wingate and suffered a loss to the Catawba Indians in Salisbury during the regular season. UNC Pembroke won three of those four contests against common foes, as they defeated Augusta State twice and earned a win over Catawba in Pembroke on December 30. The Braves dropped a 71-45 decision to Wingate on November 20th in Wingate, North Carolina.
The Railsplitters head into Saturday as one of the hottest teams in the southeast region, as they have won eight of their last nine games with their lone loss over that span coming most recently in a 69-53 loss to the Wingate Bulldogs in the championship game of the 2013 Food Lion SAC Tournament. On Tuesday, the 'Splitters extended their South Atlantic Conference record streak to 42-consecutive weeks ranked inside the top-25 of the NABC/Division II Coaches Poll, as they nabbed 13th in this week's national poll. By finishing inside the final top-25 poll, the Railsplitters have tallied two-consecutive seasons without dropping outside of the rankings. Lincoln Memorial has been present in every NABC/Division II poll since December 8, 2010, doubling the previous SAC record of 21-consecutive weeks ranked.
While UNC Pembroke boasts a high-octane offense, the Railsplitters carry one of the most stingy defensive units in the country into the Southeast Regional tournament. Lincoln Memorial ranks 14th in the country in field-goal percentage defense (39.6%) while also ranking 11th nationally in scoring margin. The Railsplitters are led into the field of 64 by a trio of All-SAC performers, headlined by first team selection Vincent Bailey. Bailey (Jennings, FL) leads the Railsplitters at 13.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and he is riding a streak of 10-consecutive games with at least 10 points. The junior forward has eight double-doubles to his credit this season. Another first team selection in senior Jake Troyli will play a vital role in the Railsplitters' NCAA Tournament run, as he is pouring in 13 points and six rebounds per appearance. All-SAC Second Teamer Lorenza Ross directs the offense for the Railsplitters at the point position while turning in 10 points and 3.1 assists per game.
The contest between the Railsplitters and the Braves will also pit two of the best rebounding teams in the country against one another. LMU ranks ninth in Division II in rebounding margin, as they average to out-rebound their opponents by 8.7 boards per game, while Pembroke is third among all Division II competitors at 10.6.
With a win in Saturday's matchup against UNC Pembroke, the Railsplitters would advance to the semifinals of the Southeast Regional Tournament where they would take on the winner of No. 3 Barton and No. 6 Montevallo on Sunday. The Railsplitters and Braves are slated to duel on Saturday, March 16th at 2:30 p.m. in Aiken, South Carolina for that spot in the semifinals on the line.