LMU ends regular season with critical SAC clash at L-R

Published 11:04 am Friday, March 1, 2019

HICKORY, N.C. – The regular season comes to a close for the Railsplitters on Saturday evening with a pivotal South Atlantic Conference matchup against the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears inside of Shuford Gymnasium.

Lincoln Memorial (20-7, 14-5 SAC) – ranked fifth in the latest Southeast Region rankings – saw its season-long six-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday in a stunning 78-76 loss at Tusculum, which ended a 24-game losing streak against the Railsplitters.

Lenoir-Rhyne (18-9, 11-8 SAC) still has a lot to prove as the Bears enter the final regular-season game ranked eighth in the Southeast Region. The Bears fell to 2-5 in their last seven games on Wednesday with an 89-81 overtime loss at Catawba.

Email newsletter signup

Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. in Hickory, N.C. Live stats and video links are available at www.lmurailsplitters.com, while fans can also follow along with in-game updates via the official LMU athletics Twitter page, @LMURailsplitter.

Notes on Lenoir-Rhyne

– After pulling out a 100-91 win over Carson-Newman on February 2, the Bears were sitting pretty at 15-4 overall and 9-3 in SAC play. Lenoir-Rhyne has faltered down the closing stretch, though, dropping four straight games before briefly righting the ship with wins over league bottom dwellers Mars Hill and Coker.

– That two-game winning streak ended in Wednesday’s overtime loss at Catawba, which dropped the Bears into a tie for fifth place in the SAC standings. In that contest, L-R fell into a 20-point hole in the first half, but rallied back to take a lead late in regulation. However, the Indians thwarted that comeback bid with a 21-13 performance in overtime.

– Djibril Diallo led Lenoir-Rhyne in the loss at Catawba, scoring 19 points on 7-for-17 shooting to go with six rebounds and four assists. Darius Simmons added 15 points in 21 minutes off the bench, while Cory Thomas had 11.

– The Bears are a solid offensive unit that ranks fifth in the SAC in points per game with 82.4, fourth in field-goal percentage at 47.4 percent and fourth in three-pointers per game with 9.7. Defensively, L-R allows 76.0 points per game, but is surrendering 44.2 percent shooting and a 34 percent clip from three.

– L-R is balanced offensively with four different players contributing at least 10 points per appearance. Diallo leads the way with 15.7, Thomas is adding 14.8, R.J. Gunn is putting up 10.2 and Jon Jean is right at 10 points per contest.

– Bertrand Awana is leading the team in rebounding with 6.1 per game to go with his 5.7 points per appearance. Thomas and Diallo are also solid rebounders with 5.8 and 5.3 per game, respectively.

– The Bears are 9-4 at Shuford Gymnasium this season, where they are averaging 84 points per game and shooting 47 percent from the field.

– Lenoir-Rhyne is the only SAC team that has beaten Queens this season as they handed the nationally-ranked Royals a 92-79 loss on January 30 in Charlotte. Prior to that, Queens had won 14 straight games and has reeled off seven straight wins since that setback to clinch the SAC regular-season title.

– The Bears will be honoring six seniors prior to Saturday’s game, including Diallo, Thomas, Awana and Jean.

Last Time Out

The Railsplitters led for the entirety of the first half and held a 56-49 lead with 14 minutes to go on Wednesday night in Greeneville, Tenn., but the Tusculum Pioneers stormed back with a 16-2 run and outlasted Lincoln Memorial down the stretch to pull out a 78-76 win.

A singularly exceptional performance powered the Pioneers to their first victory over the Railsplitters since February 2009, as Donovan Donaldson scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the final 13 minutes and scored the eventual game-winning basket with 36 seconds to play.

Cornelius Taylor tallied 24 points and Courvoisier McCauley added 16, but that duo did almost all of their damage in the first half, when they combined for 31 of their 40 points. Anthony Brown and Steven Perriere chipped in 12 points apiece off the bench.

It was a tale of two halves for the Railsplitters, who went 9-for-15 from three-point range and 11-for-12 from the free-throw line to establish a 44-38 halftime lead. LMU went 1-for-8 from three and 3-for-8 at the charity stripe in the second half, though, while Tusculum also grabbed 16 offensive boards in the contest.

Series History

– The Railsplitters gutted out a 79-68 win over Lenoir-Rhyne back on January 19 to move to 21-8 all-time in the series and beat the Bears for the 18th straight time.

– Lenoir-Rhyne last beat Lincoln Memorial on February 13, 2010. It’s been even longer since the Bears won in Hickory, where the Railsplitters have won nine straight since their last loss on February 14, 2009.

– LMU and L-R have had some battles in Hickory in recent years, highlighted by a 123-122 four-overtime win for the Railsplitters in 2015. The Bears also took the Railsplitters to the wire in a 66-61 loss in 2014.