LMU begins final week of regular season at Tusculum

Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — The final week of the regular season begins for the Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball team on Wednesday with a trip to nearby Greeneville, Tenn., to take on the rival Tusculum Pioneers.

The Railsplitters (20-6, 14-4 SAC) earned their biggest win of the 2018-19 campaign on Saturday, closing out the regular-season home schedule with a gritty 81-74 victory over Catawba, which entered the game slotted two spots ahead of Lincoln Memorial in the initial NCAA Southeast Region rankings. LMU extended its winning streak to six games with the win while clinching the program’s 10th consecutive 20-win season.

Tusculum (14-12, 10-8 SAC) is also playing some good basketball of late, as the Pioneers pushed their winning streak to four with a 79-65 win at Coker on Saturday.

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Lincoln Memorial is aiming for its 25th straight win over the Pioneers, who have not beaten the Railsplitters in over a decade.

Live stats and video links for Wednesday’s 8 p.m. tip-off inside of Pioneer Arena are available at www.lmurailsplitters.com. Fans can also follow along with in-game updates via the official LMU athletics Twitter page, @LMURailsplitter.

Notes on Tusculum

– Since dropping four of five during a stretch from late January to early February, Tusculum has reeled off four consecutive wins over Mars Hill, Lenoir-Rhyne, Carson-Newman and Coker. That flurry has put the Pioneers in sole possession of sixth place in the South Atlantic Conference standings with two games to play.

– In Saturday’s win at Coker, Trenton Gibson led Tusculum with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while Tariq Jenkins had 16 points and six steals. Caleb Hodnett chipped in with 13 points as the Pioneers shot 48 percent from the field.

– Four players are averaging double figures for the Pioneers. Donovan Donaldson leads that quartet with 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per appearance, while Jenkins is contributing 12.8 points per night. Gibson is just off that mark at 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Hodnett is scoring 11.1 points per game and shooting 56 percent from the field.

– Tusculum is not a particularly efficient or productive offensive team, ranking 10th in the league in points per game with 75.0 and ninth in field-goal percentage with a 43.0 percent mark. However, the Pioneers have made up for that with a defense that relents a league-low 72.5 points per game. Tusculum is second to only LMU in terms of field-goal percentage defense with a 42.1 percent clip.

– Aside from the four double-digit scorers, Dillon Smith is the only other Pioneer adding over eight points per game with exactly 9.0.

– Tusculum already has its most wins since the 2009-10 team finished tied for second in the SAC with a 16-12 overall record and 10-6 conference mark. Head coach J.T. Burton has made an immediate impact in his first season, as the Pioneers have more than doubled their win total from the six-win 2017-18 campaign.

– The Pioneers have only played 10 homes game this season, compiling a 6-4 mark in Greeneville.

Last Time Out

A solid defensive effort and some clutch offensive performances catapulted the Railsplitters to an 81-74 win over Catawba in the Tex Turner Arena finale last Saturday.

After giving up 96 points in a loss to the Indians in mid-January, Lincoln Memorial redeemed themselves by holding Catawba to just 39 percentage shooting while forcing 19 turnovers. The Railsplitters weren’t much better offensively at 40 percent and 8-for-30 from three, but went 23-for-27 at the free-throw line.

Julius Brown scored 20 points to lead the Railsplitters, while Cornelius Taylor tallied 17 second-half points after a 0-for-5, scoreless first half. Kamaran Calhoun added a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Courvoisier McCauley chipped in 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.

The win locked Lincoln Memorial in as the two-seed for the SAC tournament, which starts next week with quarterfinal-round action on Wednesday.

Series History

– The Railsplitters beat Tusculum 86-72 at Tex Turner Arena back on January 23 to notch their 24th consecutive win in the series. LMU led by 17 points at the half, but the Pioneers outdueled the Railsplitters 45-42 in the second to cut the final margin to 14.

– Calhoun scored a career-high 27 points on 7-of-10 shooting to lead the way for LMU, while Cameron Henry added 22 points, five rebounds and four assists. Jenkins paced the Pioneers with 24 points in 21 minutes off the bench.

– LMU has not lost to Tusculum since a 74-71 setback on Feb. 4, 2009.

– The Railsplitters are 49-31-1 all-time in Greeneville, where they have won nine straight against the Pioneers.