LMU stunned by Wingate in SAC tournament quarterfinals, 80-78

Published 11:07 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Charlie Hovasse scored with 0.2 seconds left to propel the sixth-seeded Wingate Bulldogs to an 80-78 upset win over three-seeded Lincoln Memorial in the quarterfinal round of the 2019 South Atlantic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship on Wednesday night inside of Tex Turner Arena.

The Railsplitters (20-9) led by as many as 12 points in the second half and held a nine-point edge with less than nine minutes to go, but Wingate (17-12) refused to lay down, burying nine of their last 12 shots, including a closing run of six straight made baskets to hand Lincoln Memorial its first SAC quarterfinals loss since 2009.

Wingate also snapped a 15-game losing streak against the Railsplitters, notching its first win in the series since a 69-53 victory in the 2013 SAC tournament title game.

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The loss all but assures that Lincoln Memorial’s run of eight straight NCAA tournament appearances will end, as the Railsplitters were slotted at No. 8 in Wednesday’s latest Southeast Region rankings. The selections for the NCAA tournament will be announced on Sunday night.

The Railsplitters led 41-36 at the half and seemingly broke the game open early in the second half, using a 7-0 run capped by a 3-pointer from Cornelius Taylor to take a commanding 54-42 lead with 17:42 left to play.

However, Lincoln Memorial hit a major scoring lull after that, going more than seven minutes without a point as the Bulldogs whittled the lead down to 54-53 by the 11-minute mark.

A pair of 3-pointers from Courvoisier McCauley and Alex Dahling settled the Railsplitters back down and extended the lead out to 62-53 with 8:46 to play, but Lincoln Memorial managed just three field goals the rest of the way while Wingate came up with clutch basket after clutch basket.

The Bulldogs closed the gap to one point on two different occasions over the next passage of play and finally tied the game with 2:47 left on a triple by Jakob Dawkins.

Taylor went 1-of-2 at the free-throw line to put the Railsplitters back in front, but a free throw and bucket by Marco Haskins gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the second half at 74-72 with 1:47 left.

Taylor connected on a three on the next LMU possession to put the home team back in front briefly before Francis Sio made two free throws with 1:11 left to give the Bulldogs a 76-75 lead. The Railsplitters committed the last of their 18 turnovers on the next possession, while Hovasse scored off a backdoor cut to extend the lead to 78-75 with 27 seconds left.

The Railsplitters drew up a play for McCauley on the ensuing possession and the freshman buried the game-tying three from the top of the key with just over 20 seconds remaining, but Hovasse scored off the same exact play with 0.2 seconds remaining off a pass from Haskins to send the Bulldogs to the SAC semifinals.

Lincoln Memorial, which missed 11 of its last 17 shot attempts, shot 48 percent in the game and went 15-for-32 from three. Wingate shot 44 percent overall but went 15-for-32 in the second half and scored 11 second-chance points compared to zero for the Railsplitters.

Anthony Brown led the way for the Railsplitters, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and tallied 16 points in the first half. McCauley finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, while Taylor added 14 points and eight rebounds, though he also led the team with six turnovers. Cameron Henry and Julius Brown chipped in eight points apiece.

Four players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs, led by Dawkins’ game-high 19 points, six rebounds and four assists. Jarren Cottingham added 17 points with three threes, while Hovasse finished with 15 points. Haskins chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.