HARROGATE, TN -- The 19th-ranked Railsplitters used a late rally to pull away from the Carson-Newman Eagles to take a 69-64 victory in South Atlantic Conference men's action on Wednesday evening in Tex Turner Arena. With the win and Wingate's loss earlier in the night, Lincoln Memorial University (19-4, 12-3 SAC) moved back into a three-way tie for first in the SAC standings, while Carson-Newman University (18-5, 11-4 SAC) was handing their second loss of the regular season to LMU.
In a contest that saw five ties and the lead change hands nine times, the Railsplitters used the final momentum shift to defeat the Eagles. Lincoln Memorial faced a 52-50 deficit with 9:19 left in regulation, however, they used an 11-0 run over the next the three minutes and 56 seconds to establish a 61-52 advantage. Carson-Newman was unable to cut it back to a single-possession game until Carson Brooks sent one home with 12 ticks remaining to cut the score to 67-64, but the Railsplitters quickly broke the press and Jake Troyli answered with a dunk on the other end to seal a 69-64 victory.
The Railsplitters used a balanced offensive attack to grab the win, as Vincent Bailey, Jake Troyli and Lorenza Ross paced the team with 12 points apiece. Bailey drained six of his eight attempts, while Ross poured in a four-for-six mark from the field with a two-for-three effort from long range.
The stellar efforts of Chance Jones, Dustin Craig and Tim Pierce in the Railsplitters' second unit made the difference in the contest, as those three combined to contribute 22 points to spearhead a 22-10 advantage for LMU on bench-scoring output. Pierce went three-for-four from the field en route to tallying eight points to lead that group. Along with a tremendous defensive effort, Jones poured in seven points on a three-for-five effort from the floor, while Dustin Craig fronted a 33-22 margin of victory on the glass for Lincoln Memorial with seven boards to go along with seven points.
The Railsplitters created a dominated advantage in the paint, as they outscored the Eagles 36-26 inside the square in the contest. All eight players that appeared in the game for the Railsplitters grabbed at least two rebounds. Lincoln Memorial also showed unselfish play on the offensive end, assisting on 14 of their 27 baskets. Jake Troyli and Lorenza Ross headlined that effort with three assists apiece.
Offensively, Lincoln Memorial finished with an uber-efficient 52.9% mark from the field, highlighted by a 15-for-23 effort in the second half, good for 65.2% from the floor. The Railsplitters were plagued by poor free throw shooting, as they finished seven-for-13 in the game for a 53.8% mark.
The Eagles finished with a similar offensive stat ledger, as they went 24-for-51 in the game and nine-for-18 from long range, matching the Railsplitters' 50% mark from the three (8-for-16). Ishmael Sanders was spectacular in the contest, spearheading the Carson-Newman attack with a game-high 26 points, marked by a six-for-eight effort from deep. Antoine Davis went an unblemished two-for-two from the three en route to a 12-point performance, however, the defensive effort of the Railsplitters limited the South Atlantic Conference's leading scorer to seven points below his season average. Carson Brooks also chipped in with nine points and four rebounds.
Throughout the contest, the two teams fought a back-and-forth game, with neither team establishing more than a six-point advantage until the Railsplitters used that 11-0 run late in the second half to propel themselves out to a 61-52 lead. Lorenza Ross was the story of the second stanza for Lincoln Memorial, as he netted 10 of his 12 points in that period to pace the second-half surge which led to the victory.
The Railsplitters snapped the Eagles' seven-game winning streak and increased their own winning streak to three games in the process. They will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday, February 23rd, as they welcome SAC foe Lenoir-Rhyne University to town for a duel with the Bears. That game is slated to tip at 8 p.m. in Tex Turner Arena.