JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (10-10, 8-6 South Atlantic Conference) makes the hour-long trek to Harrogate, Tenn. to face arguably its toughest challenge of the 2014-15 campaign with a matchup with No. 1 Lincoln Memorial (20-0, 14-0 SAC) Wednesday night at 8.
The matchup is the 123rd in the series dating back to 1959. C-N owns the lead in the all-time series 66-54.
The regular season meetings between the two clubs have been close of late. The series is tied 3-3 in regular season matchups since 2011. . However, LMU has been the team to end Carson-Newman's season in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 campaigns. The Railsplitters bounced the Eagles out of the SAC semifinals in 2013 69-59 and ended the Eagles NCAA tournament run last year 76-65.
LMU has compiled the longest current winning streak in the nation (20), the longest current conference winning streak in Division II (25) and the second-longest active home winning streak (25). Lincoln Memorial is one of only three remaining unbeaten teams across all three levels of the NCAA along with Division I Kentucky and Division III Marietta. The Railsplitters last conference loss came at the hands of Carson-Newman 79-77 almost a year to the date in Holt Fieldhouse.
The Railsplitters are helmed by Josh Schertz who was named Division II Bulletin Coach of the Month for January, 2015.
LMU has the raining conference player of the week in Keenan Peterson. The College Park, Ga. native kicked off his week by piling up 16 points and 15 rebounds in Lincoln Memorial's dominant 88-49 victory over the Brevard Tornados on Wednesday at Tex Turner Arena. Peterson went 7-for-9 from the field, hit his first three-pointer of the season and notched a season-high three blocks in that contest. Peterson was even better on Saturday, turning in a team-high 19 points and 13 rebounds to carry the Railsplitters in a 62-58 win at Coker.
All told, Peterson finished the week with a 15-for-22 mark from the field, two three-pointers and 28 rebounds.
Luquon Choice is the Railsplitters leading scorer, chipping in 15.2 points per game. Guard Lorenza Ross adds in 13.0 points and 5.5 assist per game. Ross is scoring at a highly efficient clip. He's hit 57 percent of his shots this season.
As efficient as the Railsplitters have been, the Eagles have been riding their own hot streak. Carson-Newman has shot 54 percent or better from the field in each of their last four contests. Carson-Newman is averaging 83.5 points per game over that stretch and 57.1 percent shooting.
Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) has scored 21 points per game over that stretch while shooting 62 percent from the field. Both Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) and Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) are averaging 15+ points per game, while Josh Rogers (Bristol, United Kingdom) has nailed 16 of his last 19 shots. Rogers enters the game fresh off his fourth career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the Eagles' 77-75 win over Catawba.
The Eagles are trying to extend their season-long three game winning streak. LMU ended Carson-Newman's long winning streak of the 2013-14 season with a 17-point win in Harrogate last year.
Carson-Newman will be challenged to slow down LMU's offensive attack while maintain its most recent offensive efficiency.
LMU is second in the nation in scoring margin, winning games by an average 22.7 points per game. Only four of the Railsplitters games this season have been decided by single digits - Coker twice, Queens and King.
Carson-Newman's recent hot streak offensively will be thoroughly tested against LMU. C-N has shot 54 percent or better from the field in each of its last four games. The Railsplitters have the best field goal percentage defense in the country - allowing opponents to make 36.4 percent of their shots.
Only four teams (Coker, King, L-R and Catawb) have hit 40 percent of their shots v. LMU. Coker has the high water mark at 43 percent.
LMU is top 10 in the country in nine statistical categories, defensive rebounds per game (2, 29.8), field goal percentage (7, 51.6), rebounding margin (3, 11.8), scoring defense (6, 61.4), three point field goal defense (2, 26.5), three point field goal percentage (3, 43.3), total rebounds (8, 864) in addition to scoring margin and field goal percentage defense.
This is Carson-Newman's first matchup with a top-ranked team since losing to Montevallo 93-53 during the 2004 season in a tournament at Kennesaw State.
The Eagles are 2-12 all-time against #1 ranked teams. The Eagles lost to #1 Grambling in the NAIA playoffs 74-70 in 1963. During the 1966-67 season, C-N did battle with top-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan twice, losing 90-57 before eking out a 54-53 meeting in the second meeting.
The 1971-72 season saw C-N face off with number ones on five occasions. The Eagles lost three times to Kentucky State and twice to Tennessee State. C-N collected its only other win over a top-ranked team during the 1973-74 season. The Eagles throttled Kentucky Wesleyan that year 110-81 to knock the Panthers out of the top spot.
C-N would lose three times to Kentucky State during the 1974-75 season. It would be the last #1 Carson-Newman would face before 1984 when the Eagles lost to Charles Oakley's Virginia Union team 85-72.
LMU occupied the top spot during the 2011-12 season when C-N swept the season series with the Railsplitters; however, Carson-Newman did not face LMU when the Railsplitters were the country's top-ranked team. Anderson ended the Railsplitters' then 14-game win streak. Carson-Newman would beat LMU 64-61 in Harrogate four games later with LMU in the top five.
Tipoff from Harrogate is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday night. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network begins at 7:45 with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.