No. 1 LMU crushes Clayton State 87-61

Published 1:48 pm Monday, March 12, 2018

HARROGATE, Tenn. — The No. 1 Railsplitters bulldozed the Clayton State Lakers (24-7) 87-61 on Sunday night at Tex Turner Arena to book their third straight trip to the Sweet 16. Lincoln Memorial (32-1) pushed its winning streak to 21 games, captured its 25th straight home win and claimed sole possession of the second-most wins in South Atlantic Conference and program history with the victory.

For the second year in a row, the Railsplitters will face Queens in the Southeast Regional title game. It will be the fourth meeting between the two teams this season alone and the second clash in a little over a week, as Lincoln Memorial topped the Royals in the SAC Championship title game back on March 4.

The Railsplitters and Royals will collide in the Southeast Regional championship at 7 p.m. on Tuesday inside of Tex Turner Arena, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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After surviving an upset scare on Saturday night with a mostly uninspired effort against King, the Railsplitters rebounded with an utterly dominant performance against the Lakers. Lincoln Memorial led outright for more than 38 minutes, opened the game on a 17-3 run and built as large as a 42-point lead to claim a spot in Tuesday night’s regional final.

“I thought we were locked in and really focused from the tip,” head coach Josh Schertz said. “We played great defense in the first half and that really fueled us.

“It was good to see the ball go in the basket. It has been awhile since we have really made a bunch of shots. I’m happy with our team and proud of our guys. We beat an outstanding team in Clayton State.”

The Railsplitters shot 50 percent as a team and went 12-for-31 from three-point range. Lincoln Memorial held Clayton State to 37 percent shooting, including a dreadful 8-for-26 mark in the first half. The Railsplitters had more three-point field goals in the first half with nine than the Lakers had total shots made and led by 31 at the break.

After struggling from long range of late, Trevon Shaw buried eight 3-pointers to lead all scorers with 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Shaw had 20 of his 26 points and six of his eight 3-pointers in the first half to help the Railsplitters blow the game wide open.

“I was just in rhythm and I had to keep going. Luckily the shots fell tonight,” Shaw said.

Emanuel Terry added 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds, five assists and a block. Dorian Pinson scored 16 in the first half and finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Cornelius Taylor pitched in 14 points, three assists and three boards.

After starting slow in their last three games, the Railsplitters looked razor sharp early on Sunday night. Lincoln Memorial hit six of its first eight shots while limiting Clayton State to a 1-for-7 start to race out to a commanding 17-3 lead by the 15:15 mark.

The Railsplitters pulled ahead 29-8 by the 10-minute mark, but the Lakers used a 9-0 spurt to cut the deficit down to 29-16 less than two minutes later. However, Lincoln Memorial answered with a 12-0 run capped by a three from Shaw to take a massive 41-16 lead with 5:42 remaining in the half.

It didn’t get much better for the Lakers after that, as a three from Shaw and a dunk from Kamaran Calhoun pushed the lead to 52-30 with 2:26 left in the half. Pinson laid one in just before the buzzer sounded to send LMU into the break with a 56-25 advantage.

“We know the last couple of games we haven’t been able to get out to a good start,” Pinson said. “It was good tonight to see our guys make shots, play together, move the ball and get everybody involved.”

The Railsplitters kept their foot on the gas in the early stages of the second half, driving the lead to 81-39 at the 11-minute mark.

Lincoln Memorial removed its starting unit from the game with a little over 10 minutes left and a comfortable 40-point lead. However, the Lakers reeled off a 22-2 run to trim the deficit to 83-61 by the 3:55 mark, prompting Schertz to bring his starters back into the game. That group stabilized things and held the Lakers scoreless over the final 3:55 to cruise to the 26-point victory.

“The first 30 minutes or so was the best we have played in a long, long time,” Schertz said. “It was good to see our guys play like that.”

Dantez Bennamon led Clayton State with 16 points in 33 minutes off the bench. Nathan Powell chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds, while Jaylen Taylor scored 10 points and led the team with 10 rebounds.

The Lakers end the season with 24 wins, matching an NCAA era program record, and their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years.