KANSAS CITY, MO -- For the first time this season, the Lincoln Memorial University men's basketball team broke into the top-10 of the NABC/Division II Coaches Poll, moving to No. 10 in this week's rankings which were unveiled late Tuesday afternoon.
The Railsplitters moved into the top-10 nationally, jumping from No. 12 to No. 10, for the first time since February 21, 2012 after posting an unbeaten 2-0 mark over a pair of the top teams in the South Atlantic Conference this past week. Lincoln Memorial opened the week by traveling to Jefferson City, Tennessee where they came away with a dominating 80-63 victory over the Carson-Newman Eagles on Wednesday evening. The 'Splitters amassed as large as a 21-point advantage and never led by less than nine in the second half en route to handing Carson-Newman their first loss of the season in Holt Fieldhouse. LMU continued their stellar play over the weekend, as they returned to Tex Turner Arena to clip the Wingate Bulldogs, 60-58, giving WU their first loss in South Atlantic Conference play this season. The Railsplitters led 60-53 with 3:38 to left in regulation and withstood a 5-0 rally to edge the Bulldogs in Harrogate, Tennessee. In the process, the Railsplitters moved into a t hree-way tie atop the SAC standings with Anderson and Wingate.
A large amount of the credit for the Railsplitters' success during this four-game winning streak can be attributed to the magnificent play of senior Jake Troyli over the past week and a half. The 6'10" forward hailing from Largo, Florida currently leads the Railsplitters with 15.8 points per game and he is riding a streak of three-consecutive games in which he has topped the 20-point plateau. On January 19th, Troyli matched a career-high effort with 26 points in Lincoln Memorial's win over Lenoir-Rhyne before shattering that mark with 32 points in the win over Carson-Newman. Jake capped his week with a game-high 20 points to lead the Railsplitters past Wingate. For his efforts this past week, Troyli was crowned with SAC Player of the Week honors as well as Railsplitter of the Week laurels. The big man also ranks third on the team in rebounding at 5.7 per outing.
Troyli's partner-in-crime, Vincent Bailey, has also picked up his play over the past four games to serve a vital role in the Railsplitters' winning ways. Bailey, a 6'6" forward out of Jennings, Florida, leads the Railsplitters with 8.9 rebounds per game and ranks second on the squad with 13.2 points per. Dating back to his return from injury on December 2nd, Bailey has notched six double-double performances. Bailey has poured in double-digit points in four-consecutive contests for the Railsplitters.
Wally Jones, Cam Carden and Lorenza Ross are averaging to combine for more than 30 points for the Railsplitters this season, with Jones leading that group at 11.6 points per appearance. Carden is pouring in 9.4 per outing and leads the LMU back court in rebounding at 4.3 boards per. Lorenza Ross has been hampered by an injury over the past week and a half, however, he is still contributing 9.1 points and 1.9 rebounds per game for the Railsplitters.
Freshman Tim Pierce (Albany, Georgia) has stepped in to a larger role in the wake of injuries in the Railsplitters' back court, tallying at least seven points in four-consecutive games, highlighted by a 14-point outburst in the win over Brevard. For the season, Pierce is averaging 5.2 points per game.
Senior Dustin Craig (Knoxville, Tennessee) has provided a spark for the Lincoln Memorial front court off the bench this season, as the 6'6" forward boast a stat ledger of 7.9 points per and 6.2 rebounds per game. Craig reigned in nine rebounds and put in eight points in the win over Wingate on Saturday night.
As a team, the Railsplitters boast one of the most balanced attacks in the nation, as they rank 11th among all NCAA Division II competitors in field-goal percentage (50.1%) while also ranking 14th in field-goal percentage defense (38.9%). Those figures extend to the three-point arc with the Railsplitters sitting in eighth in three-point field-goal percentage (41.8%) and 16th in three-point field-goal percentage defense (29.5%). The Railsplitters are also outscoring their foes by a margin of 16.1 this season, which ranks sixth in all of Division II. Lincoln Memorial's positive rebounding margin of 9.3 per game ranks 10th in the NCAA.
Lincoln Memorial aims to extend their four-game winning streak this week with a pair of South Atlantic Conference contests on tap, beginning with a home matchup against in-state rival Tusculum College on Wednesday at 8 pm. On Saturday, the Railsplitters are slated to hit the road to Salisbury, North Carolina to take on the Catawba College Indians in a game slated for a 4 pm start.