The Railsplitters (10-2, 6-0 SAC), who slipped to No. 19 in this week's Top 25 poll from No. 11 last week, aim to bounce back from a hard-fought loss and remain perfect in South Atlantic Conference play on Wednesday night, Jan. 6 when they travel to Stanford Arena for an 8 p.m. tipoff against the Mars Hill Lions (5-7, 1-5 SAC).
Lincoln Memorial has won 12 straight games against Mars Hill since their last loss to the Lions on January 23, 2010, and only one of those 12 wins, a 71-68 triumph at Mars Hill in 2011, was decided by fewer than 10 points. The Railsplitters own a cumulative 14-7 record against Mars Hill since the two teams first met in 2005.
The Railsplitters saw their 10-game winning streak snapped last Saturday afternoon in a 98-84 loss to the 17th-ranked Bellarmine Knights in Louisville, Ky. Lincoln Memorial, who entered that contest ranked 10th in the nation in field goal percentage defense, allowed the Knights to shoot 64.6 percent from the field, including a 15-for-21 mark (71.4 percent) in the second half. Despite those tremendous offensive numbers, Bellarmine only led by six points after a bucket by Luquon Choice (Laurens, S.C.) with 1:51 to play.
However, a delay of game infraction, two technical fouls and a personal foul helped the Knights score seven of their last 11 points at the free throw line, fueling an 11-3 closing run that turned a two-possession game into a runaway victory.
Gerel Simmons (Accokeek, Md.) went 9-for-13 from the field and scored a team-leading 23 points, while Jalen Steele (Knoxville, Tenn.), the reigning USBWA National Player of the Week, added 21 points with three rebounds, three steals and two assists. Choice contributed 16 points, as that trio combined to score 60 of LMU's 84 points.
Since the start of the 2012-13 campaign, the Railsplitters are 10-0 following losses. Lincoln Memorial has not lost back-to-back games since losing to Anderson and Carson-Newman in succession in February of 2012.
The Lions enter Wednesday night's contest sporting a 5-7 overall record with three straight losses since their last victory on December 12 against Catawba. That record is a little bit misleading, though, as Mars Hill has only lost one game by more than 12 points, an 81-57 loss at Anderson, while three of its seven losses have been decided by six points or less.
Mars Hill most recently suffered an 86-75 loss at Carson-Newman on Saturday afternoon, as the Eagles completely dominated the interior with a 41-30 rebounding edge and a 44-22 advantage on scoring in the paint.
The Lions can be dangerous due to their ability to get hot from three-point territory. Mars Hill is ranked second in the South Atlantic Conference in made three-pointers per game with 10.8 on a 38.2 percent clip. On three different occasions this season, Mars Hill has hit at least 14 triples in a game, and all three of those performances has resulted in a win.
All told, Mars Hill averages 83.7 points per game and hoists up nearly 70 shot attempts per game, making 44.7 percent of those looks. The Lions are the worst rebounding team in the league, though, pulling down a mere 36 rebounds per game with a minus 7.6 margin on the glass. To make matters worse, Mars Hill gives up 79 points per game on a 45.6 percent clip, the third-worst mark in the league. Surprisingly, teams are struggling to shoot three-pointers against the Lions, though, with a 32.1 percent mark. Mars Hill is the least turnover prone team in the conference, committing just 10.3 turnovers per game.
The Lions have four players averaging double figures this season. Justin Yeargin - a 6-1 senior from Oakland, Calif. - is putting up 13.4 points and 4.1 assists per game on a 39.7 percent mark from deep, while Michael Carson - a 6-0 senior from Niagara Falls, N.Y. - has contributed 13.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per game on 42.9 percent shooting. Tyree Griffin, one of just four Mars Hill players listed at 6-7 or taller, is figuring in 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game on 68.2 percent shooting, the fifth-best mark in the SAC. Patrick Monroe, a 6-3 senior guard, is averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while connecting on 39.8 percent of his threes.
The Railsplitters utterly dominated last season's meeting at Stanford Arena, shooting 58.2 percent from the field and holding Mars Hill to 36.2 percent shooting in a 96-64 win. Four of LMU's five starters scored double figures, led by 16 points from Choice. Emanuel Terry (Enterprise, Ala.) added a career-high 16 points in 14 minutes off of the bench.
Lincoln Memorial hasn't lost at Mars Hill since January of 2009, notching six straight road wins in the series since then.
An audio link is available for the game at www.LMURailsplitters.com, while fans can also follow along with Voice of the Railsplitters Rusty Peace at WLMU 91.3 The Gap.
The Railsplitters squeaked out a 79-67 win over Mars Hill in last season's meeting at Tex Turner Arena. Choice had 18 points with four three-pointers....Lincoln Memorial is scheduled for another Top 20 showdown later this week, as it welcomes the No. 8 ranked and undefeated Queens Royals to Tex Turner Arena on Saturday for a 4 p.m. tip off.