VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (10-9, 3-8 South Atlantic Conference) will try to shrug off a last-second loss to Wingate when Lincoln Memorial (14-4, 9-2 SAC) enters Holt Fieldhouse for an 8 p.m. tip Wednesday.
The contest, as well as the women's game preceding it at 6 p.m., has been declared an Orange Out.
"Anytime we can get bodies in Holt, it makes the environment that much more difficult for the opponent," head coach Chuck Benson said. "Hopefully the weather will clear up and we can pack Holt for both the men's and women's games."
Lincoln Memorial, the league's second-place team, is going for a sixth straight win against Carson-Newman. That's something that the 'Splitters have never done in the 208-game history between the two teams.
LMU won five consecutive over C-N from 1988-90. However, this most recent run by LMU has been utterly dominant. Since Carson-Newman tallied a 111-109 win in overtime win to open the 2016 conference schedule, LMU has picked up five massive wins by an average of 29.6 points per game. Carson-Newman has been no closer than 12 points during that stretch.
"They've kept right on with the momentum they've had from year's past in terms of wins and losses," Benson said. "We know we're going to be challenged as much as we can possibly be challenged. Hopefully, we can go into this game with some confidence and pride in our performance."
The Railsplitters have won four straight after falling at Catawba 96-83. LMU did the first three of those without preseason All-America guard Cornelius Taylor. However, he returned to the lineup in the Railsplitters' 96-67 win at Coker.
All but one of those wins on LMU's streak has come by double figures. The lone exception is an 85-78 win at Mars Hill. LMU, the league's top three-point shooting team, has made 9.75 triples per game on that stretch.
LMU has been a different team away from Tex Turner Arena. At home, LMU is unbeaten and averaging 94.9 points per game. On the road, LMU is 4-4. The Railsplitters average 82.3 ppg on the road on 43 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent shooting from the three.
While LMU has gotten on a roll, the Eagles are trying to halt a downhill skid. C-N has won one of its last five. The Eagles enter fresh off a heartbreaking 76-74 loss to Wingate. Emarius Logan knocked down a 15-foot runner in traffic to give the Bulldogs the win and erase a 17-point C-N comeback.
"This one has been challenging to get over," Benson said. "Some guys were really hurt by that loss. We've tried to encourage them to focus on the positives, like how we fought and how we had a chance. We're continuing to try to find lessons in all this, for our team and for our individuals as we move throughout this season and then past basketball. I really feel like this team has some good, brighter days ahead of it."
With the exception of the Eagles' 111-109 instant classic in 2016, the series with LMU has been dominated by blowouts. Of the last 13 meetings, 12 have been decided by double digits. The Eagles are 3-10 against the Railsplitters in that stretch.
Mason Bates and Malik Abraham are both on the 1,000-point watch for their careers at Carson-Newman. Bates sits at 939 career points. Abraham has 956. They are seeking to become the 27th and 28th 1,000-point scorers in C-N men's basketball program history.
Abraham has been especially effective of late. The senior has made at least four threes in each of the last five games.
"We needed that from him desperately," Benson said. "More so, Malik has evolved as a person and it's become more evident the way he plays on both sides of the ball. He's defending with more pride. He trusts teammates and shares the ball. His sense of urgency and his desire are the strongest I've seen it. Despite all the challenges this year, he's been a solid senior performer."
Tipoff from Holt Fieldhouse is set for 8 p.m. Pregame coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 7:45 p.m. with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.