Railsplitters seek second straight SAC title

Published 3:15 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

HARROGATE, Tenn. — The three-seeded Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball team will begin the quest for its second consecutive and fifth-ever South Atlantic Conference tournament title on Wednesday when the sixth-seeded Wingate Bulldogs drop in Tex Turner Arena for quarterfinal-round action.

The regular season came to a bitter end for the Railsplitters (20-8, 14-6 SAC), who suffered their second straight loss on Saturday in the regular-season finale at Lenoir-Rhyne. That setback dropped Lincoln Memorial into a tie for second place in the SAC standings and, based on the tiebreaker scenarios, the No. 3 seed for the conference tournament.

It was a rough regular-season finish for the Bulldogs (16-12, 12-8 SAC) as Wingate lost at Tusculum on Saturday to stumble to the six seed.

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The winner of Wednesday night’s 7 p.m. tip-off inside of Tex Turner Arena will advance to the SAC tournament semifinals to face either Catawba or Anderson at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Timmons Arena in Greenville, S.C.

Notes on Wingate

– Prior to their loss to Tusculum in the regular-season finale, the Bulldogs had No. 9 Queens dead to rights with an 85-82 lead with nine seconds to go. However, Van Turner buried a three on the Royals’ final possession to force overtime, where Queens pulled away with a 99-91 victory.

– The loss at Tusculum was a different story as Wingate never led by more than five points, shot 31 percent from the field and 21 percent from three and was dismantled 41-31 on the backboards to suffer a 77-65 defeat.

– Wingate is one of the better defensive teams in the conference, allowing SAC opponents just 75.8 points per game on 44 percent shooting and a 35 percent mark from three. However, despite playing at the third-fastest pace in the league, the Bulldogs rank sixth in points per game in SAC matchups with 79.8 and are shooting a dismal 42.3 percent.

– Guard Marco Haskins has been among the best players in the SAC this season, ranking third in points per game with 19.5, fourth in rebounds per game with 7.6, second in three-point percentage at 47.3, 13th in total assists with 74 and eighth in total steals with 39.

– Three other players are contributing over 10 points per game for Wingate: Emarius Logan with 13.2, Frankie Johnson with 11.2 and Jakob Dawkins with 11.0.

– The Bulldogs are averaging six points less per game on the road (76.8) compared to at home (82.9). However, the team is shooting it more efficiently with a 42.9 percent mark compared to a 42.0 percent clip at home. They are also hitting 37 percent of their threes on the road compared to 35 percent at home.

– Wingate ranks second in the league with 8.0 steals per game. The Bulldogs also commit the third-fewest turnovers per contest with 12.9.

– The Bulldogs earned the six seed for the conference tournament but finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the league with Tusculum and Lenoir-Rhyne, which earned the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds by virtue of the tiebreaker scenarios.

Last Time Out

The Railsplitters led in the final minute but were unable to seal the deal in an 85-83 loss at Lenoir-Rhyne in the regular-season finale on Saturday.

Simply put, Lincoln Memorial could not stop the Bears’ offensive attack, which shot 47 percent from the field and went to the free-throw line 28 times to snap an 18-game losing streak against the Railsplitters that began in January 2011.

Djibril Diallo hit two free throws with 40 seconds left to give Lenoir-Rhyne the lead, while the Railsplitters came up empty on their last three possessions to head into the postseason on a two-game losing streak.

Lincoln Memorial was solid offensively, shooting 48 percent while going 18-for-22 at the charity stripe. Anthony Brown had 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Cornelius Taylor contributed 17 points and eight rebounds, though he finished 6-for-14 from the field. Courvoisier McCauley added 16 points, while Cameron Henry chipped in 11 points and four rebounds.

Series History

– The Railsplitters swept the regular-season series against Wingate, winning 81-72 at Tex Turner Arena before pulling out a heart-stopping 67-64 win at Wingate on February 9 thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Taylor.

– Lincoln Memorial has won 15 straight games against the Bulldogs. However, Wingate’s last two wins in the series occurred in the SAC tournament – a 69-53 victory in the 2013 title game and a 64-60 overtime win in the semifinals in 2012.

– The Railsplitters are 13-2 all-time against Wingate at Tex Turner Arena, where they have won 12 consecutive over the Bulldogs. Head coach Josh Schertz has never lost to Wingate at home.