HARROGATE, Tenn. -- The seventh-ranked Railsplitters (18-2, 14-0 SAC) put forth a lockdown second-half defensive effort to overcome an 18-point deficit and defeat the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears (12-6, 7-6 SAC) 86-75 in South Atlantic Conference men's hoops action on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 30, at Tex Turner Arena. "They punched us in the mouth early," LMU head men's basketball coach Josh Schertz said. "They were certainly the more aggressive team and whipped us in transition. We had some shooting turnovers that led to runouts and unbalanced floors and they made us pay. We made some changes from a matchup standpoint, shifted some guys around and played small for most of the game. I thought our guys showed incredible mental toughness to bounce back from that, keep fighting and keep playing."
Five players hit double figures for Lincoln Memorial, led by Gerel Simmons' (Accokeek, Md.) 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting coupled with four rebounds. Dorian Pinson (Greenville, S.C.) filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks, while Luquon Choice (Laurens, S.C.) had 15 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three-point territory. Jalen Steele (pictured) of Knoxville, Tenn., posted 13 points and four boards, and Curtis McMillion (Fayetteville, N.C.) notched 11 points in 21 minutes off of the bench. Emanuel Terry (Enterprise, Ala.) was limited to three points in 13 minutes, but he blocked a season-high five shots. A combination of Lenoir-Rhyne's hot shooting and the Railsplitters' sloppy play forced Lincoln Memorial to dig out of a massive first-half hole. Click here for Box Score
"We felt really fortunate to be down by just seven points, because they really controlled the half," Schertz said. "I told the guys that as badly as we played, with turnovers, bad shot selection and poor defense, we were still in the game. But we had to come out in the second half and establish a defensive presence." The Railsplitters limited Lenoir-Rhyne to 11-for-32 shooting (34.4 percent) in the second half, including a 0-for-5 effort from three-point range. All told, Lincoln Memorial outscored the Bears 65-36 over the game's final 25:23. A huge key to the game was Pinson's defensive effort on Lenoir-Rhyne's standout point guard Keenan Palmore. Palmore finished with a game-high 31 points, but he required 26 shots to reach that mark. Pinson didn't start the game guarding Palmore but was switched on to him after the Bears' hot start, holding the Old Dominion transfer to 8-for-17 shooting in the second half. "The thing that will stand out to me always about this game is the job Dorian did on (Keenan) Palmore, for him to be able to go out, guard a point guard and move his feet," Schertz said. "Palmore was the key early. He's a unique matchup because he's a point guard that's built like a post player." LMU had a rare off-night from the three, shooting 35 percent (6-for-17), but the Railsplitters finished shooting 52.8 percent (28-for-53) from the field with a 24-for-30 mark (80 percent) at the charity stripe. The Railsplitters hit 13 of their 21 second-half shot attempts for a 61.9 percent mark. Added Schertz, "Obviously, when you're down 18 points you have to play great defense, but you also have to score. And we were able to do that." The Railsplitters will look to become the first-ever SAC program to start 15-0 in league play on Wednesday, February 3, when they welcome Brevard to Tex Turner Arena for an 8 p.m. tip. LMU has won 10 straight against the Tornados, who they beat 88-67 earlier this season.
Second half run, defensive pressure sparks Lady Railsplitters to 65-49 win over Lenoir-Rhyne
The Lady Railsplitters (12-7, 9-5 SAC) used a 19-4 second quarter run and defensive pressure to force Lenoir-Ryne (6-11, 5-8 SAC) into one of their worst shooting performances of the season as LMU won 65-49 in the Tex Turner Arena Saturday afternoon.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught