LMU shoots lights out in win at Tusculum

LMU shoots lights out in win at Tusculum

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Lincoln Memorial University placed all five starters in double figures and shot a blistering 66 percent from floor to lead the third-ranked Railsplitters to a 96-81 South Atlantic Conference men's basketball win at Tusculum University Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.

LMU (18-1, 11-0 SAC) recorded its NCAA Division II leading 18-game winning streak and avenge last year's 78-76 loss to the Pioneers (11-8, 6-5 SAC) in its last trip to Greeneville.

The LMU duo of Devin Whitfield and Courvoisier McCauley scored 25 and 24 points, respectively, while Cameron Henry tallied 19 points as the LMU starting five accounted for 92 of its 96 points.

LMU used a 30-12 run spanning the first and second half as the Railsplitters went 35-of-53 from the field and only missed seven total attempts in the second half (20-of-27, 74%).

The Pioneers finished the night with four players in double digits led by Tariq Jenkins 17 points, while Brandon Mitchell and Trenton Gibson tallied 16 points apiece.  Mitchell led all players with 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. He shot 5-of-9 from the floor and went a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line. 

TU rookie Keaston Brown scored a season-best 10 points off the bench, Dillon Smith added nine markers, while freshman Joshua Scott went 9-of-9 at the foul line for his nine points as the Pioneers finished the game shooting 24-of-28 from the stripe (86%).

Tusculum got on the board first with a Gibson jumper but LMU went on a 10-2 run making its first four shots including three-pointers by McCauley and Henry to take a 10-4 lead in the opening three minutes.

Later in the period Whitfield hit a jumper to give LMU a 21-15 lead at the 9:47 mark of the half. Baskets by Jenkins and Mitchell trimmed the deficit to 21-19 with eight minutes left before halftime.

LMU responded with an 11-4 spurt over the next four minutes to take a 32-23 lead following a triple from Henry. Gibson answered with a trey of his own, but a four-point play by Whitfield pushed the Lincoln Memorial advantage back to double digits at 36-26. 

Two Mitchell free throws made the score 36-28, but LMU would close out the half with a 9-2 run over the final 2:34 to take a 45-30 lead into the locker room.

LMU extended the run into the second half using a 17-8 spark while making seven of its first nine shots of the period to bolt out to its largest lead of the night at 62-38 with 14:53 remaining

With the visitors leading 73-50 midway through the second half, the Pioneers erupted for a 16-5 run over the next 10 minutes to get to within a dozen at 78-66 with 5:23 to go.  But that would be as close as TU would get as the Railsplitters answered each Tusculum run and pushed the lead back out to 19 (90-71) before the Pioneers added a pair of threes down the stretch for the final scoring margin.

McCauley finished the game shooting 10-of-13 from the floor with including 3-of-5 from three-point land while dishing out five assists and posted four steals. Whitefield shot 8-of-13 from the field, 5-of-9 from beyond the arc and 4-of-4 at the foul line. LMU also got 14 points and eight assists from Anthony Brown, while Rhondi Hackett added 10 points, four boards and three blocks for the Railsplitters.

The 96 points scored by LMU are the most allowed by the Pioneers this year and the most in three seasons.  The Pioneers entered the game with the league's top scoring defense allowing just 68.2 points per game.

Tusculum finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor including 16-of-32 in the second half as TU match LMU's 51 points in the final 20 minutes.  LMU outscored the Pioneers 42-24 in the paint and held a 24-6 edge in fast break points. Tusculum out-rebounded the Railsplitters 38-22 including 18-2 on the offensive boards as the Pioneers held a dominating edge in second-chance points at 20-0.

With the first half of the SAC season completed, LMU maintains its two-game lead over Queens University of Charlotte. Despite the loss, the Pioneers remain in a four-way tie for third place in the SAC standings with Catawba, Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne.

Tusculum travels to Salisbury, North Carolina on Saturday for a rematch against the Catawba Indians, who defeated TU 75-71 in November.