The NCAA unveiled the initial Division II regional rankings of the 2015-16 men's hoops season on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 17, and the fourth-ranked Railsplitters (22-2) are slotted at the No. 1 spot in the Southeast Region. The top team in final regional rankings, which will be released following the South Atlantic Conference Championship title game on March 6, will host the Southeast Region Tournament. Lincoln Memorial is one of four SAC teams represented in the top 10 of the region rankings, as No. 6 nationally-ranked Queens is at No. 2, Wingate is at No. 4 and Lenoir-Rhyne is at No. 7. King -- the team responsible for one of LMU's two losses this season -- is at No. 3, while Montevallo and Columbus State are in the five and six spots, respectively. No. 8 Georgia College, No. 9 Mount Olive and No. 10 Lander round out the final three spots in the Southeast Region rankings. The Railsplitters hosted the NCAA Division II Southeast Region Tournament last season for the first time in program history and are on track to get that opportunity for the second consecutive season. Entering the home stretch of the regular season, Lincoln Memorial has won 12 straight games overall and is off to the best start to SAC play in league history at 18-0. The Railsplitters have won 25 consecutive regular-season SAC games since the back half of the 2014-15 season, when LMU posted a 21-1 conference record to capture an unprecedented third straight SAC championship. Lincoln Memorial sports one of the most potent offensive attacks in the country. The Railsplitters are ranked second in the nation with 96.6 points per game and third in scoring margin with an average margin of victory of 19.1. Coach Josh Schertz's squad is also among the most efficient teams in the country, ranking fourth in field-goal percentage (52 percent) and second in three-point field goal percentage (44.2 percent). The Railsplitters have made five consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to round of 32 in each of the past four seasons. Lincoln Memorial faces Queens -- No. 2 in the region and No. 6 in the nation -- on Saturday. NCAA Division II Southeast Region rankings - February 17 1. Lincoln Memorial 2. Queens (NC) 3. King (TN) 4. Wingate 5. Montevallo 6. Columbus St. 7. Lenoir-Rhyne 8. Georgia College 9. Mount Olive 10. Lander
LMU Men Stop Mars Hill 95-72
The Railsplitters (23-2, 19-0 SAC) overcame an uncharacteristically sluggish start to defeat the Mars Hill Lions (9-16, 5-14 SAC) 95-72 and capture their 13th consecutive win on Wednesday night, Feb. 17, at Tex Turner Arena. A combination of Mars Hill's hot shooting and Lincoln Memorial's lack of urgency on defense landed the Railsplitters in a nine-point deficit midway through the first half. But the home team powered through that behind another dazzling three-point shooting display and an increased defensive effort over the final 30 minutes.
"We lacked focus and effort for the first 10 or 12 minutes," LMU head men's basketball coach Josh Schertz (pictured) said. "Mars Hill was playing much harder than we were. We didn't get back on defense, gave up transition baskets and didn't execute offensively. Our poor shot selection early compromised our defense and led to a lot of run outs."
Luquon Choice (Laurens, S.C.) led the Railsplitters with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting paired with four rebounds and two assists. Jalen Steele (Knoxville, Tenn.) finished 7-for-17 from the floor and 6-of-16 from three, but produced 22 points and five rebounds. Gerel Simmons (Accokeek, Md.) -- the reigning SAC Player of the Week - tallied a double-double with 18 points, a career-high 12 rebounds and four assists. Emanuel Terry (Enterprise, Ala.) also produced a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, which he paired with four blocks.
The Railsplitters head to Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday for a highly-anticipated showdown with the No. 6 nationally-ranked Queens Royals. Lincoln Memorial and Queens have a combined 22-game winning streak with both teams sitting at 23-2 on the season. That game tips off at 4 p.m.
Lady Railsplitters Edge Mars Hill In 67-66 Thriller
Down 66-64 with less than four seconds left in the game, senior Britney Guy (Locust Grove, Ga.) hit a 40-foot three-pointer as time expired to give the Lady Railsplitters (15-9, 12-7 SAC) the 67-66 win over Mars Hill (13-11, 12-7 SAC) Wednesday night in the Tex Turner Arena. The win, along with a Lenoir-Rhyne win over Newberry, creates a four-way logjam for second place in the South Atlantic Conference standings with two weeks to go before the confernece tournament begins. Megan Pittman (Liberty, Ky.) led LMU with 13 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Guy had 11 points and Kiara Rawls (Killeen, Texas) added in 10 points. For the game, LMU shot 42.4% (28-66) from the field, 33.3% (5-15) from behind the three-point arc and 54.5% from the free throw line. The Lady Railsplitters out-rebounded their opponent for the 21st time this season as they held a 38-27 advantage in that category.
LMU will travel on the road to Queens for a Saturday 2 p.m. tip-off. Saturday's game marks the start of a two-game road swing for the Lady Railsplitters, who also play at Anderson next Wednesday evening before returning home for thr regular season finale on Feb. 27 vs. Catawba.
The game at Queens will be Queens' Play4Kay game, which helps to raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. This contest has a special meaning as Queens Coach Susan Yow is the sister of Kay Yow. Queens comes into the contest with a 4-20 overall record and a 2-17 SAC record, including a 73-58 loss at Catawba earlier this evening.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught