JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The seventh-ranked Railsplitters nearly rallied from 13-point second-half deficit but ultimately fell short in a stunning 79-77 loss to the Carson-Newman Eagles in South Atlantic Conference men’s basketball action on Wednesday in Holt Fieldhouse.
The loss snaps Lincoln Memorial University’s (17-2, 13-2 SAC) 13-game winning streak, which was the longest for the program since opening with 15 straight during the 2012-13 campaign. Carson-Newman (13-6, 10-5 SAC) picked up its third win in the last four games and snapped a three-game losing streak to the Railsplitters.
The Railsplitters shot below 40 percent for only the second time this season, as Carson-Newman’s 2-3 zone defense held LMU to only 26-for-66 shooting (39.4 percent) in the contest. LMU especially struggled in the first half when they hit on only 11 of 31 shot. With that, the Railsplitters found themselves facing their largest halftime deficit of the season at 38-31.
Ishmael Sanders’ 3-pointer at the buzzer capped Carson-Newman’s 11-4 run to close the period. Luquon Choices’ trey just prior to Sanders’ half-ending trifecta was LMU’s only field goal over the final seven minutes of the half.
LMU cut the deficit to 41-35 on a Chance Jones layup at the 18:52 mark, but the Eagles used a steady flow of easy scoring opportunities to keep the Railsplitters at bay. Five Carson-Newman layups and four free throws over a more than nine-minute stretch extended the home team’s lead to 62-49 with under 10 minutes remaining.
Carson-Newman retained its 13-point edge with a Jared Johnson basket with 7:29 to play, but the Railsplitters made a dent in that armor by scoring eight unanswered points, capped with a Time Pierce 3 to close the gap to 66-61 with 4:33 to go. Two Antoine Davis free throws and a 3 from Sanders pushed C-N’s cushion back to 10 before Jones and Choice score eight straight points for LMU to make it 71-69 with only 1:29 remaining.
Carson-Newman went 8-for-12 from the free throw line from there to hold on fo the two-point win. LMU missed two separate potential game-tying threes down the stretch. But, Curtis Webb put LMU within one on a three-pointer in the waning seconds. Jared Johnson was fouled in the ensuing in-bounds pass, and he missed on the back end of that trip to the charity stripe. LMU senior Vincent Bailey collected the rebound, but the Railsplitters’ last-ditch heave came up empty.
Bailey posted 16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a steal in 30 minutes of action, tallying his third straight double-double and fourth in the last five games. Jones finished with 17 points despite an off night from the field, where he finished 6-for-18. Choice cashed in four 3-pointers to on his to 15 points. Tim Pierce was LMU’s next highest scorer, with eight points and four assists.
The Eagles finished with the most efficient offensive outing for an LMU opponent during the 2013-14 campaign, as C-N tallied a 24-for-51 mark (47.1 percent) and made 26 of 35 free throws.
Sanders, Davis and Johnson cobined for 62 of Carson-Newman points. Sanders scored a game-high 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Davis went 10-for-10 from the line en route to a 20-point outburst. Johnson finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Lincoln Memorial will look to rebound on Saturday at home against Newberry at 8 p.m. Saturday also serves as LMU’s annual Play 4Kay night, which raises money towards breast cancer research for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.