VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Charles Clark Interview
VIDEO: Shaun Jones Interview
HARROGATE, Tenn. – Carson-Newman stayed within arm's length of the No. 1 team in the nation but was not able to fully contain the Railsplitters as the Eagles fell 89-77 in Tex Turner Arena on Wednesday evening.
Carson-Newman (21-6, 13-6 South Atlantic Conference) held its largest lead of the outing early in the first half as it held a nine-point advantage over the second-best offensive scoring team in the nation in the 206th meeting between the conference rivals.
"The only other thing that would make me prouder of my guys right now is if we won the game. It was already going to be an adverse situation," head coach Chuck Benson said. "I couldn't be prouder of their fight and their effort. We had a bunch of warriors show up today."
Lincoln Memorial (26-1, 19-0 SAC) notched its 15th straight win in the victory, but it was their closest margin of victory since a one-point win over Queens back on Jan. 13, due in part to a full game of man-to-man defense by the Eagles. The win also extended the Railsplitters' SAC winning streak to 33 consecutive games. It also extended their home winning streak to 21 games.
Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.) led the Eagles in scoring with 19 points accompanied by 16 boards for this fifth double-double of the season and 18th for his career. He was one rebound away from his career high.
"I was just trying to stay aggressive," the senior said. "I was able to, obviously, come up with a few rebounds, but like I said, I was trying to be aggressive because that was a physical game.
Benson's crew kept the game within single points early on, jumping on its first substantial streak nearly nine minutes in. Up 17-11, Clark buried a triple from long range, slamming an exclamation point on an 11-0 C-N run to put the Eagles up by nine for their largest lead of the night.
The remainder of the first half was a back and forth battle as both teams found themselves holding onto small streaks. The Railsplitters went on a 9-2 run to close out the first 20 minutes of the match, holding a one-point lead at the break, 43-42.
"I think we just had a sense of urgency," Jones mentioned. "We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game, it was going to be a tough fight. I think each one of us went out there and wanted to sit down and guard. We just had to contain the ball and make them take tough shots, and I think we did that for a majority of the game until they really started making their run."
LMU's largest lead of the first half was just a mere three points with the Eagles leading for 14:32 of the opening stanza.
Both teams were nearly identical in their shots from the floor in the first half, the Eagles shooting 15-of-36 compared to 16-of-36 by LMU. Three-point shooting was a rough spot for each team, but the Railsplitters held a slight advantage in the mark at the half.
"I just think when we were getting our runs, we were getting stops, running in transition and we were trying to find open shots," Clark said. "We made them and I think that helped."
The second half was all LMU as C-N was never able to garner a lead for the rest of the game. The Railsplitters snagged a 6-0 spurt on an Eagles' scoring drought almost five minutes into the second half. The Eagles went over two-and-a-half minutes without scoring a point in that time span.
With roughly seven minutes left in the game, Carson-Newman was able to cut the LMU lead to single digits as Jones drove into the paint for a layup that he was subsequently fouled on, sending him to the line for a C-N eight-point run to shave the Railsplitter lead to five, but that would be as close as the Eagles would get before the final whistle.
C-N shot for 38-percent on the night from the field, making just nine of its 28 shots from long distance.
LMU turned the ball over ten times on the night compared to just five times by the Orange and Blue.
Deshawn Patterson had the highest scoring mark for LMU on the night, notching 19 points off the bench. Four other Railsplitters also ventured into double-digit territory including a double-double from Dorian Pinson with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
The Eagles' strong defensive showing held Emanuel Terry to just five points on the night, his lowest total of the season.
"You know who their guys are – Terry, Pinson, (Trevon) Shaw, (Cornelius) Taylor – they're very, very good obviously," Benson said. "I thought we tried to impact them with our offense and our defense, and some other guys stepped up to make plays."
The Eagles head back to Holt Fieldhouse for the final home game of the regular season on Saturday, hosting Wingate. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. for C-N and the Bulldogs. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network begins at 3:45 with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.