No. 2 Railsplitters clinch share of SAC regular season title with 94-76 win at UVA Wise
WISE, Va. — For the eighth time in the last 10 seasons, the Lincoln Memorial University men’s basketball team is South Atlantic Conference regular season champions. The Railsplitters (24-1, 17-0) clinched at least a share of the 2019-20 league title for the eighth time since 2010-11 by defeating UVA Wise 94-76 on the road Wednesday night inside the David J. Prior Convocation Center in Wise, Va.
Remaining unblemished in conference play and perfect in 2020, LMU extended its nation-leading winning streak to 24 to tie both a program and SAC record.
With the regular season title, the Railsplitters tie Catawba for the most regular season titles in SAC history. LMU has now won 12 league championships, including SAC Tournament titles, since 2010.
After a slow start, the visiting Railsplitters outscored the host Cavaliers (5-18, 1-16) 56-42 in the second half while shooting 52.9 percent (18-of-34) from the floor across the final 20 minutes. Trailing by as much as seven early in the first half, LMU rallied with 13 made three pointers and five double-digit scorers.
Getting a 33-point contribution from their bench, the Railsplitters forced 17 UVA Wise turnovers and scored 28 points off of the Cavaliers’ miscues. LMU also held a 12-2 advantage in fastbreak points and committed only five second-half turnovers.
UVA Wise scored the first seven points of the night and held the Railsplitters without a basket for the first 3:16 of play. A strong take to the rim by redshirt senior forward/guard Kamaran Calhoun resulted in a pair of free throws and capped a 12-3 LMU run, giving the Railsplitters their first lead of the game at 12-10 about six minutes and 20 seconds in.
Back-to-back three pointers by redshirt junior guard Devin Whitfield and junior guard Alex Dahling put LMU up by four at 18-14 following nine minutes of action but the Cavaliers would hold the lead for the majority of the half. A four-point play from the top of the key by Whitfield gave the Railsplitters a two-point advantage at 26-24 before LMU found itself trailing 32-28 with 3:39 remaining in the half.
The Railsplitters closed out the first half on an impressive 10-2 run over the final 3:08, getting buckets from senior point guard Anthony Brown, sophomore guard Julius Brown, Calhoun and a two-handed fastbreak throwdown by Whitfield. Taking a four-point, 38-34 lead into the break, LMU shot just 40 percent (10-of-25) in the first half and was 5-for-12 (41.7%) from deep.
UVA Wise went 10-for-28 (35.7%) from the field in the first half of play and was held to 2-for-9 (22.2%) from distance.
Beginning the second half determined, the Railsplitters got threes from Anthony Brown and Whitfield in the first minute before a jumper in the paint by Calhoun gave the Blue and Gray their first 10-point lead at 12 (46-34) just three minutes into the second period. Outscoring the Cavaliers 11-2 in the first four minutes, LMU got an old-fashioned three-point play from redshirt senior forward Rhondi Hackett to push its lead out to 13 at 49-36.
Treys by Julius Brown and Dahling built the Railsplitters’ lead to 15 at 55-40 following six-and-a-half minutes of second-half action. From there, LMU would remain in control for the remainder of the game.
A 10-4 UVA Wise run got the home team back within nine at 59-50 when starting guard Cameron Whiteside hit a three pointer with a little over 11 minutes to go. However, the Railsplitters responded with another Whitfield three and led by at least 10 for the rest of the way.
A completed and-one by sophomore guard Courvoisier McCauley increased LMU’s advantage to 17 at 71-54 with just over eight minutes left. Following a steal, redshirt sophomore guard Cameron Henry had a breakaway dunk to keep the Railsplitters ahead by 17 at 83-66, before a Whitfield layup capped a 10-3 LMU run and gave the visitors their first 20-point lead at 89-69 with just over two-and-a-half minutes to go.
The Railsplitters owned their largest lead of the night at 21 (94-73) following an Anthony Brown layup with 30 seconds remaining. Going 8-for-19 (42.1%) from three-point land in the second half, LMU finished the game 47.5 percent (28-of-59) from the field, 41.9 percent (13-of-31) from long range and 86.2% (25-of-29) from the foul line.
The Cavaliers shot 42.4 percent (14-of-33) in the second half and 40 percent (6-of-15) from beyond the arc to end the night 39.3 percent (24-of-61) from the floor and 33.3 percent from outside. UVA Wise hit all 20 of its free throws.
Whitfield led the Railsplitters with 21 points, six rebounds and a season-high tying six assists, while Anthony Brown claimed 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting and dished out a game-high eight assists. Julius Brown had 17 points and four rebounds off the bench, going 3-for-5 from outside and 6-for-8 from the floor. Henry added 12 points and six boards and Calhoun scored 10 points, grabbed three rebounds, distributed a pair of assists and had two blocks in 21 minutes off the bench.
Whiteside logged a game-best 31 points on 9-for-18 shooting with five three pointers for the Cavaliers, going 8-for-8 at the charity stripe and hauling in a game-high nine rebounds. UVA Wise Starting forward Eric Okenchi poured in 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting, also going 8-for-8 at the foul line and recording six boards.
The Railsplitters can clinch the SAC regular season title outright Saturday when they host Newberry in a 4 p.m. tip-off from inside B. Frank “Tex” Turner Arena. Saturday’s men’s and women’s doubleheader with the visiting Wolves is presented by Sleep Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express and Econo Lodge.