AIKEN, S.C. — LMU’s 13th-ranked Railsplitters are set to make their third-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday. Second-seeded Lincoln Memorial will meet seven seed UNC Pembroke in the quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Southeast Regional ai 2:30 p.m. in USC Aiken’s Convocation Center.
Host USC Aiken unveiled the game times for Saturday’s quarterfinal action earlier this week, and the Railsplitters drew the second game of the afternoon. Prior to LMU’s contest, No. 3 Barton (21-7) and No. 6 Montevallo (20-9) tip off the tournament at noon. The winner of that game will meed the LMU-Pembrook winner in the semifinals. The other half of the bracket has top-seeded USC Aiken (22-7) facing off against eighth-seeded Belmont Abbey (22-9) at 5 p.m. with the final contest of the day immediately following, as No. 4 Wingate (21-8) and No. 5 Limestone (21-8) duke it out at 7:30 p.m. The two semifinal matchups are slated for 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday while the championship will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
In Saturday’s battle with No. 7 UNC Pembroke (22-9), the Railsplitters will have to contend with one of the most potent offenses in the southeast region and the Division II level. The Braves rank 19th in Division II in scoring offense at 81.2 points per game.
The Braves are led by the three-headed attack of Shahmel Brackett, George Blakeney and Quamain Rose, as those three combine to average 43.7 points per game. All-Peach Belt Conference second team selection Brackett, a 6-foot, 180-pound guard, leads that trio with 16.3 points and 3.2 assists per game and is a 39.6-percent shooter from long range. All-PBC first team honoree Blakeney provides the Braves with 14.7 points and 9.9 boards per contest, which ranks 14th in the nation at the Division II level. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound senior tallied 16 double-doubles this season and hit 56.2 percent of his shots from the field. Rose, a 6-foot, 170-pound guard, earned Peach Belt Conference freshman of the year laurels after pouring in 12.7 points, 3.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game in his debut season with the Braves.
This will be only the second matchup between Lincoln Memorial and UNC Pembroke in program history, as the Railsplitters came away with a 64-52 victory over the Braves in Pembroke, N.C., on Dec. 29, 2006. The Railsplitters and Braves shared three common opponents from the 2012-13 schedule, as UNC Pembroke took on SAC foes Wingate and Catawba to go along with two contests against PBC foe Augusta State. The Railsplitters hold a a 4-2 record against those opponents with the four wins coming in two regular-season triumphs over Wingate, a win in Augusta over the Jaguars and a win in the regular-season finale against Catawba. The ‘Splitters dropped the SAC Tournament Championship to Wingate and suffered a loss to the Catawba Indians in Salisbury during the regular season. UNC Pembroke won three of their four contests against those foes, as they defeated Augusta State twice and earned a win over Catawba in Pembroke on Dec. 30. The Braves dropped a 71-45 decision at Wingate on Nov. 20.
The Railsplitters head into Saturday as one of the hottest teams in the southeast region, as they had won eight before dropping a 69-53 decision to Wingate in the SAC championship game. On Tuesday, the ‘Splitters extended their South Atlantic Conference record streak to 42-consecutive weeks ranked in the top-25 of the NABC/Division II Coaches Poll. The Railsplitters have now gone two consecutive seasons without dropping out of the rankings. Lincoln Memorial has been present in every NABC/Division II poll since Dec. 8, 2010.
While UNC Pembroke boasts a high-octane offense, the Railsplitters carry one of the most stingy defensive units in the country into the Southeast Regional tournament. LMU ranks 14th in the country in field-goal percentage defense (39.6 percent) while also ranking 11th nationally in scoring margin.
The Railsplitters are led into the field of 64 by a trio of All-SAC performers, headlined by first team selection Vincent Bailey. Bailey (Jennings, Fla.) leads the Railsplitters at 13.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and he is riding a streak of ten straight games with at least 10 points. The junior forward has eight double-doubles to his credit this season. Another first team selection in senior Jake Troyli will play a vital role in the Railsplitters’ NCAA Tournament run, as he is pouring in 13 points and six rebounds per appearance. All-SAC second teamer Lorenza Ross directs the offense for the Railsplitters at the point position while turning in 10 points and 3.1 assists per game.
The contest between the Railsplitters and the Braves will also pit two of the best rebounding teams in the country against one another. LMU ranks ninth in Division II in rebounding margin, as they average an 8.7 rebound margin per game, while Pembroke is third among all Division II competitors at 10.6.