Late free throws lift #8 Lincoln Memorial to 66-65 win over Tusculum

Sydney Wilson finished with a season-high 17 points
Sydney Wilson finished with a season-high 17 points

HARROGATE, Tenn. --- Megan Pittman hit two free throws with 13 seconds left to lift eighth-ranked Lincoln Memorial University to a 66-65 victory over Tusculum College in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Wednesday night at Tex Turner Arena.

The Railsplitters (21-1, 16-1 SAC) trailed by nine points midway through the third quarter, but recovered to take a three-point lead at the end of three quarters. The Pioneers went back up by five points with 4:48 to play, but the Railsplitters closed the game with an 8-2 run over the final 4 1/2 minutes to turn away the upset-minded Pioneers.

Kasey Johnson led the Pioneers (5-16, 4-13 SAC) with game highs of 20 points and nine rebounds, but Tusculum could not overcome three starters fouling out in the fourth quarter. Sydney Wilson added a season-high 17 points for the Pioneers, who shot 40 percent (22-for-55) from the field while holding the Railsplitters to 33.8 percent (22-for-65) from the floor in the game.

Pittman led the Railsplitters with 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists while Shea Coker added 13 points and Sydnie Anderson chipped in with 11. Lincoln Memorial finished the game with a 43-36 advantage in rebounding, including 18 offensive rebounds which they converted into 16 second-chance points.

Lincoln Memorial scored the game's first six points and took an 11-5 lead behind seven points from Anderson in the first four minutes, but the Pioneers ran off seven unasnwered points to take their first lead of the game at 16-15 on a basket by Wilson with 22 seconds left in the first quarter. Two foul shots by Emily Griffith with nine seconds left gave Lincoln Memorial a 17-16 lead at the end of one period.

The Railsplitters led by as many as six points in the second quarter, but a three-point play by Johnson tied the game at 30-30 with 4:28 to play in the first half. A free throw by Jasmine Queen, two foul shots by Wilson and a free throw by Tia Dailey gave the Pioneers a four-point lead, and Tusculum went to the locker room holding a 38-35 advantage over the hosts.

Tusculum shot 46.2 percent (12-for-26) from the field in the first half, including 4-for-9 from three-point range. Johnson and Wilson led the Pioneers with nine points apiece, while Callie Patterson had eight points and Monica Roberts added six in seven minutes off the bench. Lincoln Memorial was led by Anderson, who had eight points in the opening half, while Pittman had seven points and three rebounds. Overall, the Railsplitters shot 44 percent (11-for-25) from the field but went 11-for-16 at the foul line as a team.

Consecutive buckets by Wilson and Johnson, and a foul shot by Queen, gave the Pioneers a 43-35 lead with 8:24 left in the third quarter. The margin stretched to nine points at 46-37 following a basket by Wilson with 5:53 to go in the quarter, but Lincoln Memorial closed the quarter with a 14-2 run to take a 51-48 lead into the final period.

A three-pointer by Emily Griffith gave Lincoln Memorial a 54-50 lead with 9:13 to play, but the Pioneers came back to tie the score at 54-54 on consecutive buckets by Johnson. The Railsplitters regained the lead at 56-54 on a jumper by Pittman with 7:39 left, but the Pioneers came back with a jumper from Wilson and two more baskets from Johnson to go on top 60-56 with 5:21 to play.

A three-pointer by Jasmine Williams extended the Tusculum lead to 63-58 with 4:48 to go, but a three-point play from Pittman and a three-pointer by Coker pushed Lincoln Memorial back ahead 64-63 with 2:44 remaining. The Pioneers gained their final lead at 65-64 on two free throws by Queen with 1:13 left, and after an exchange of missed shots it was the Railsplitters' Pittman who hit a pair at the line with 13 seconds to go for a 66-65 LMU lead. Tusculum misfired on a potential go-ahead shot with five seconds left, and were unable to get a final shot after two missed free throws from the Railsplitters in the final four seconds.

Roberts played a season-high 26 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers, collecting season highs of six points and three rebounds. Benedicta Makakala had four points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

Tusculum turned the ball over 17 times in the game, but Lincoln Memorial was able to score just seven points off the miscues. The Railsplitters had 15 turnovers as a team, and the Pioneers responded with 14 points. The game featured nine ties and eight lead changes, with the final field goal coming on Coker's three-pointer with 2:44 left.

The Pioneers will return to the road Saturday at Coker in a key SAC contest. The Pioneers and Cobras are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference along with Queens, with five games remaining in the regular season. Tusculum defeated Coker 59-50 when the teams met in Greeneville on Dec. 17.