GREENVILLE, SC -- The third-seeded Wingate University Bulldogs overcame a seven-point halftime deficit and outscored the top-billed/11th-ranked Railsplitters, 48-25, in the second half to capture a 69-53 victory to claim the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Championship on Sunday afternoon in Greenville, South Carolina. The loss to the Bulldogs is the first for Lincoln Memorial University (24-5) this season, as they defeated Wingate (21-8) in the two regular-season matchups. It also snaps an eight-game winning streak for the Railsplitters dating back to February 13th. For the Bulldogs, they earn their second-consecutive tournament title and clinch an automatic berth to the 2013 NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament.
The No. 11 Railsplitters await their seed for the southeast regional tournament, which is set to be announced during a live selection show via the NCAA at 10:30 p.m. eastern time which can be viewed here. Lincoln Memorial was ranked first in the most recent southeast region poll, just ahead of Peach Belt Conference tournament champion USC Aiken. The number one team in the region earns the distinction of hosting the three rounds of regional play on their home turf.
The Bulldogs held early sway in the contest, as Ethan Kincaid tallied eight points through the first media timeout to give Wingate a 10-8 advantage at the 12:55 mark. Jeff Parker came out of that timeout by grabbing an offensive rebound and putting in a layup to extend the Bulldog advantage to 12-8, which stood through the second media timeout with 11:35 left to play in the first.
Coming out of the break, the Railsplitters picked up two quick baskets from Dustin Craig and Chance Jones to knot the game at 12-12. Following that run, the Bulldogs used a pair of free throws by Odell Turner and a layup by Ryan Daye, which answered a tough lay in by Chance Jones, to take a 16-14 advantage with 7:55 left to play in the half.
Over the next 4:17, the Railsplitters implemented a 6-2 run, paced with two buckets from Vincent Bailey to take a 20-18 lead by the third media timeout with 3:38 remaining in the opening half. The Railsplitters continued to rally over the final three and a half minute stretch, as they closed the first period on an 8-3 run, capped with a three-pointer by Cam Carden as time expired to go into the break holding a 28-21 advantage.
The Railsplitters put on the clamps defensively in the opening frame, as they limited the Bulldogs to only a 22% effort (7-32) from the field in that period and held Wingate without a field goal over the final 5:42. The Railsplitters also forced the 'Dogs into six turnovers in the first 20 minutes and posted five blocked shots to claim sway of the ballgame. Nearly all of the scoring in that stanza came from the combo of Vincent Bailey and Chance Jones, as the pair combined for 16 points with Bailey pouring in 10 to front the 28-21 halftime advantage for the Railsplitters.
Coming out of the locker room, the Railsplitters used a three-point play by Vincent Bailey to push their lead to 31-21, however, the Bulldogs used a three-point play and a three-pointer by Paidrick Matilus, along with two-consecutive transition buckets to close the gap to 33-31 with 16:52 left to play. Both teams traded three-point and two-point buckets before the Bulldogs used a breakaway layup by Ethan Kincaid and a dunk by Deion Turman to knot the game at 38-38 with 14:21 to play.
Over the next six minutes, the momentum flipped in Wingate's favor, as they rolled out a 12-4 run, capped with a pair of free throws by Paidrick Matilus at the 8:28 mark to assume a 50-42 advantage. The Railsplitters stopped the bleeding briefly with a two-pointer by Lorenza Ross, however, the Bulldogs answered with a three-pointer by Ryan Daye and a free throw by Turman with 6:36 to play to extend the lead to 54-44.
The Railsplitters fought back with a 6-0 run, paced by Lorenza Ross' three-pointer to cut the deficit to 54-50 at the 4:57 mark. However, that would be the Railsplitters' last gasp, as Wingate answered with a 9-0 run of their own over the next three minutes to extend the lead to 63-50, the largest lead for either team, on a drive and dunk by Odell Turner with 1:35 left in regulation. That lead would be too much to overcome for the Railsplitters, as they were limited to only three points over the final 1:35 with two field goals over the final 5:49 en route to a 69-53 loss in Greenville, South Carolina.
Lincoln Memorial struggled to find their rhythm offensively in the second half of play, as they were limited to only nine field goals on 31% shooting over the final 20 minutes of action in which they were outscored 48-25 by the Bulldogs. LMU did, however, edge Wingate in shooting percentage, notching a 40% effort to only a 34.8% mark for the Bulldogs. The Railsplitters' offensive efforts were headlined by Vincent Bailey, as the junior forward tallied 15 points and 12 rebounds in only 28 minutes of work. Chance Jones chimed in with 13 points, four rebounds and two assists, while Lorenza Ross netted 10 points and three rebounds.
Vincent Bailey and Chance Jones were both awarded All-Tournament honors for their efforts in the 2013 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament.
In uncharacteristic fashion, the Railsplitters were bested on the glass, as the Bulldogs compiled a 47-36 rebounding advantage with 20 offensive boards in the contest, which accounted for an eye-popping 29-8 disparity on second chance points for the Bulldogs. Deion Turman fueled that dominant rebounding performance for the Bulldogs with a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with 12 second-half points. SAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Paidrick Matilus led the Bulldogs in scoring, along with Ryan Daye, with 14 points, while Ethan Kincaid added 10 points and eight rebounds. Odell Turner was also strong in the championship game with seven points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes of work.