Railsplitters outlast Mars Hill for 85-78 road victory

Published 10:59 am Thursday, January 17, 2019

MARS HILL, N.C. — Fueled by a career night from Kamaran Calhoun, the Railsplitters outlasted the Mars Hill Lions to pick up an 85-78 victory in South Atlantic Conference action on Wednesday at the Ammons Family Athletic Center.

On a night when Lincoln Memorial (11-4, 6-2 SAC) was without leading scorer Cornelius Taylor, Calhoun and company picked up the slack, leading the Railsplitters to their third road win of the season and 19th straight victory over the struggling Lions (6-8, 1-6 SAC).

Mars Hill, which suffered its fourth straight loss and fell to 0-4 in 2019, was also short-handed as leading scorer Ja’Shawn Brooks was scratched from the game prior to tip-off, while second- and third-leading scorers Javonte Cook and Austin Gilyard combined for just 22 minutes of playing time.

Calhoun needed only eight shot attempts to score a career-high 22 points, going 9-for-9 at the free-throw line while also adding a career-high 10 rebounds in 36 minutes of work for his first career double-double.

Calhoun wasn’t the only LMU player to establish a new career-high scoring mark in the win, as Rhondi Hackett poured in a career-best 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with six rebounds, three blocks and two assists in his third start of the season. Courvoisier McCauley fell just two points of matching his career-high mark with 14 points in 18 minutes off the bench. Alex Dahling added 13 points with four threes, while Anthony Brown and Cameron Henry chipped in 10 points apiece.

Lincoln Memorial shot 55 percent from the field and went 10-for-24 from three-point range. The 55 percent mark is the team’s second-highest this season behind only their 56 percent effort against Newberry.

Mars Hill was dismal offensively in the opening half, shooting 28 percent as the Railsplitters raced out to a 19-point lead. However, the Lions shot a remarkable 68 percent (17-for-25) in the second half, including a 5-for-10 effort from three, to erase every bit of that 19-point cushion.

“Certainly our offense won us the game tonight as it felt like we didn’t get a stop the entire second half,” said LMU head coach Josh Schertz. “That being said, credit Mars Hill, who I thought played at an incredibly high level offensively and also our guys who showed some resilience and were able to keep responding.

Overall it was a good team win and we had number of guys step up and make big plays down the stretch to help us get across the finish line against a good team on the road.”

Vernon Jackson led the Lions with 16 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench, while Matthew Powell had 15 points and six rebounds. Austin Stone helped fuel the second-half comeback with 12 of his 14 points coming over the final 20 minutes, while Reggie Wright added 13 points.

Cook buried a 3-pointer on the first Mars Hill possession of the game, but the Railsplitters would utterly dominate the next eight minutes, rattling off a 24-2 run to establish a 19-point lead at 24-5 by the 12-minute mark of the half.

Calhoun scored eight consecutive points early in the run, while McCauley connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to score the final eight points of that flurry.

The Railsplitters were unable to completely seize control from there, though, as a couple of Vernon jumpers comprised a 9-0 Mars Hill run that trimmed the deficit to 24-14 by the 9:39 mark.

The Lions whittled the lead down to as little as eight on several occasions in the half, but the Railsplitters would go into the break with a 40-30 advantage.

Stone – a 6-9 senior forward – was the catalyst for the second-half run that brought Mars Hill back into the game, as the big man hit a three, knocked down a hook shot in the paint and finished off a three-point play to make it 44-38 with 18 minutes left in regulation.

Chris Barnette and Cook followed that up with baskets to bring the Lions within one, while Powell later hit three straight free throws to tie the game at 46-46 at the 15:58 mark.

The game would be tied one other time after that at 49-49, but Brown, Hackett and Calhoun scored on consecutive possessions to put the Railsplitters back in the driver’s seat.

The Lions made it a one-possession game four times after that, but Lincoln Memorial had an answer each time.

Nursing a 58-55 lead with 11:51 on the clock, McCauley scored to extend the lead back to five. Wright hit a three on the next Mars Hill possession to close the gap back to two, but Calhoun hit two free throws and scored another bucket to give the Railsplitters some breathing room.

It was Calhoun that again that had the answer the final time that Mars Hill closed within a single possession, as the junior buried two free throws to bolster a three-point lead with 2:39 left to play.

Lincoln Memorial never led by less than four down the closing stretch.

Quick Hits

– The seven-point spread is the lowest margin of victory for the Railsplitters in the series since a 71-68 win in February 2011.

– Turnovers were relatively even. LMU scored 15 points off 13 Mars Hill turnovers, while the Lions converted 15 Railsplitter turnovers into 14 points.

– Mars Hill finished shooting 45.5 percent, which stands as the third-highest mark the Railsplitters have allowed this season.

Up Next

The Railsplitters return to Tex Turner Arena on Saturday afternoon to host Lenoir-Rhyne for a SAC matchup set for a 4 p.m. tip.