LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Coming out of a two-week break for the holidays, the 11th-ranked Railsplitters looked to open 2016 with a statement win against 17th-ranked and national power Bellarmine.
But the Knights (9-2) had other plans, shooting 64.6 percent from the field and connecting on 12-of-19 from three-point territory to snap Lincoln Memorial's (10-2) 10-game winning streak by a final of 98-84 at Knights Hall on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 2.
Two key statistical outliers keyed Bellarmine's win. First and foremost, the Railsplitters entered the contest ranked 10th in the nation in field goal percentage defense by allowing just 38.7 percent shooting, but the Knights went 31-for-48 from the field to record the highest shooting percentage by an LMU opponent since at least the 2000-01 campaign. It marked the first time an LMU opponent shot better than 60 percent since Tusculum accomplished that feat in January, 2012. Second, the Knights were averaging just 7.4 three-pointers per game through their first 10 games, but hit 12 of their 19 attempts, including eight in the first half.
"Every time we broke down defensively they made us pay," LMU head coach Josh Schertz said. "We did a poor job on the ball, particularly in the second half. We got broken down too often off of the dribble and that put us in late-clock situations where guys get to the rim and force help. And those kind of plays are deflating when you guard for 27 or 28 seconds and give up a layup."
Gerel Simmons, a native of Accokeek, Md., led the Railsplitters with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting with four three-pointers, while Jalen Steele of Knoxville, Tenn., contributed 21 points coupled with three rebounds, three steals and two assists. Luquon Choice of Laurens, S.C. chipped in 16 points despite struggling from the field, where he made just five of his 13 shot attempts.
LMU's Emanuel Terry of Enterprise, Ala. put up nine points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, while Dorian Pinson of Greenville, S.C., pitched in seven points and eight rebounds.
Foul trouble and free throws played a huge role in the outcome, especially in the final two minutes of regulation, as Lincoln Memorial had five players pick up at least four fouls in the contest.
In a game that featured 47 personal fouls and four technicals, the Knights finished with 17 more free throw attempts than the Railsplitters (33-16) with 12 more makes (24-12).
"We competed hard and I was proud of how we competed and how we fought, but at the end against a team like this, the execution has got to be at an unbelievably high level defensively and we just weren't there," Schertz said.
The Railsplitters finished shooting 45.6 percent (31-for-68) from the field and 37 percent (10-for-27) from three-point territory. Bellarmine outrebounded Lincoln Memorial 30-28, but the Railsplitters grabbed 10 offensive boards to pile up 20 more shot attempts than the Knights.
Rusty Troutman went 10-for-15 from the field and 11-of-17 at the charity stripe to score a game-high 34 points to go along with eight rebounds for the Knights. George Suggs added 18 points, four rebounds and three blocks, while Yasin Kolo and Adam Eberhard chipped in 15 points apiece.
Quick Hits The Railsplitters fall to 0-2 all-time against Bellarmine in the first meeting between the two programs since 2007...LMU and Bellarmine finished with 31 field goals apiece, while BU had 12 three-pointers to the Railsplitters' 10. The big difference came at the free throw line, where Bellarmine scored 24 points to LMU's 12...The game featured seven ties and 17 lead changes...Bellarmine's 98 points were the most by an LMU opponent since Montevallo tallied that same number on March 16, 2014
Up Next The Railsplitters look to bounce back when they travel to Mars Hill, N.C. for a South Atlantic Conference contest against the Mars Hill Lions on Wednesday, January 6. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.