HARROGATE, Tenn. -- The fifth-ranked Railsplitters (2-1) held the Hiwassee Tigers (4-5) to 19 points through the first 20 minutes of action and closed the first half on a 40-6 run to power a 105-63 victory in the Tex Turner Arena opener on Thursday night, Nov. 19.
Four-fifths of Lincoln Memorial's starting lineup finished in double figures, led by Knoxville, Tenn., product Jalen Steele's 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and a 4-of-5 mark from deep. Steele (pictured) scored all 18 of his points in the first half while also grabbing three rebounds.
Gerel Simmons (Accokeek, Md.) also did all of his work in the first half, producing 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Dorian Pinson (Greenville, S.C.) scored 10 points and corralled seven rebounds in 11 minutes, while Curtis McMillion (Fayetteville, N.C.) notched 10 points, four boards and two blocks. Hunter Spaw (Bean Station, Tenn.) and Paul Woodson (Cincinnati, Ohio) each accounted for nine points off of the bench, while Nicksen Blanc (Port Charlotte, Fla.) matched a team-high mark with seven rebounds.
In spite of the lopsided final score, the game resembled the two before it, as the Railsplitters completely dominated the first half before stumbling through a second-half lull.
The Railsplitters outscored the visiting Tigers 61-19 in the first half alone, shooting 62.2 percent and cashing in 10-of-12 from the charity stripe. On the other end, Lincoln Memorial limited Hiwassee to 28 percent shooting with just eight rebounds. A 40-6 run that consumed the final 11:25 of the first half put the Railsplitters comfortably ahead at the break.
The second half was played to an even 44-44 draw, though, as Hiwassee grabbed seven offensive rebounds, knocked down four three-pointers and went 12-of-17 at the free throw line.
"We played with good intensity for a half," LMU head men's basketball coach Josh Schertz said after the game. "I think we got stops in 15 straight possessions at one point. We were able to dig in defensively and we did a good job on the backboards. When we decide to play, we're a good team. But we have a lot to improve on. We don't have the mental toughness right now to string two halves together and until we develop that mental toughness to play two halves, we're not going to beat anybody good.
"We're seeing intensity, effort and things in spurts, and the spurt was longer tonight than it was against Lees-McRae. But you can't do it in spurts and beat teams that are really good. And that's where we're at right now."
The Railsplitters kick off South Atlantic Conference play at home against arch-rival Carson-Newman at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 24 in the 200th meeting all-time between the two programs.
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