Railsplitters’ 24-game winning streak against Tusculum snapped in 78-76 loss

Published 11:52 am Thursday, February 28, 2019

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Donovan Donaldson scored 27 points, including 20 in the second half, to power the Tusculum Pioneers to their first win over Lincoln Memorial in over a decade, 78-76, on Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.

The Railsplitters (20-7, 14-5 SAC) led by as many as seven points in the second half, but a 16-2 run powered by 12 points from Donaldson gave Tusculum (15-12, 11-8 SAC) a seven-point lead in the blink of an eye with less than 10 minutes to play.

The Pioneers remained in front 69-62 following another bucket by Donaldson at the eight-minute mark, but it was then the Railsplitters turn to rally, as the visitors rattled off nine unanswered points, fueled by a run of seven straight by Cornelius Taylor, to take a 71-69 lead with 4:16 to play.

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A three-pointer put the Pioneers back in front on their next possession before Kamaran Calhoun tied the game at 72-72 by going 1-for-2 at the free-throw line.

The score remained tied until a steal sent Tusculum out in transition, where Donaldson was fouled with 1:25 to go. The guard buried two free throws to put Tusculum back up 74-72. Anthony Brown answered on the other end with a game-tying bucket, but Donaldson scored another clutch basket with 36 seconds left to make it 76-74.

The Railsplitters missed the potential go-ahead three on the other end and immediately fouled Donaldson, who hit two more free throws to make it a two-possession game with 12 seconds left.

On the next trip down the floor, Brown was fouled and knocked down two free throws for the Railsplitters to cut the deficit in half, and Lincoln Memorial sent Donaldson back to the free-throw line again with six seconds to go. This time, Donaldson missed both, giving Lincoln Memorial a chance to either tie or win with a last-second bucket.

However, the Railsplitters were unable to get a shot off as the Pioneers snapped a 24-game losing streak against Lincoln Memorial that dated back to January 2010. It was Tusculum’s first win in the series since February 4, 2009.

“It was certainly a tough one,” said LMU head coach Josh Schertz. “You have to give a lot of credit to Tusculum as I thought they played with great purpose and energy. We couldn’t do anything with Donaldson in the second half. You can’t let a player of that caliber get comfortable because then they will make tough ones and I thought we let him get awfully comfortable early in the second half.

“The whole key to this deal is how you respond,” Schertz added. “We will see what we are made of on Saturday against a great L-R team.”

The Railsplitters, who saw their season-long six-game winning streak snapped, were solid offensively with a 47 percent mark and a 10-for-23 effort from three. However, Tusculum matched that effort by shooting 47 percent and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds that led to nine more shots attempts and 13 second-chance points.

Taylor and Courvoisier McCauley powered the Railsplitters’ offensive attack, particularly in the first half. Taylor went 6-for-8 from three to score 24 points, with 17 coming in the first half, while McCauley scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half. Steven Perriere fell one point short of matching his career-high mark, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 15 minutes off the bench. Anthony Brown also scored 12 while adding three rebounds and two assists.

Aside from Donaldson’s herculean effort for Tusculum, Trenton Gibson added 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Dillon Smith and Tariq Jenkins chipped in eight points apiece. Eight different players provided at least four points for the Pioneers.

The Railsplitters led 44-38 at the half almost exclusively because of the hot shooting of Taylor and McCauley and an efficient effort at the free-throw line.

Taylor and McCauley combined for the first 15 points of the game for the Railsplitters until Alex Dahling broke that streak with a three at the 11-minute mark that pushed Lincoln Memorial in front 18-17.

The lead changed hands four times over the next passage of play until two free throws from Taylor, two more by McCauley and a three by Taylor capped a 7-0 run that gave the Railsplitters a 28-24 lead with 6:52 left in the half.

Another three by Taylor extended the LMU to 31-25, but Tusculum erased all of that by scoring seven unanswered points to go ahead 32-31 with 4:33 remaining.

Perriere notched the first two-point bucket of the game for the Railsplitters on the ensuing possession to put LMU back in front and spark another 7-0 run.

Calhoun scored the final six points of the half for the Railsplitters, who eventually pulled out to as large as a 44-36 margin until Jenkins knocked down a jumper with three seconds left to cut LMU’s halftime lead to 44-38.

The back-and-forth nature of the game continued early in the second half as the Pioneers started on a 6-0 run to tie the game, which was almost immediately answered by the Railsplitters with a 6-0 run of their own to reclaim a 54-47 lead with 15 minutes left in regulation.

That brought the game into the dramatic stretch run, which saw Donaldson score 20 points in the final 13 minutes to lift the Pioneers to victory.

Up Next

The Railsplitters close out the regular season on Saturday at Lenoir-Rhyne. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.