VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview
VIDEO: Dima Bykov Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (2-4, 0-1 South Atlantic Conference) attempted 24 more shots and outrebounded ninth-ranked Lincoln Memorial (7-1, 2-0 SAC) by nine, but the Railsplitters made 11 more free throws than C-N and rallied to take a 93-88 decision from Carson-Newman Tuesday night at Holt Fieldhouse.
"You obviously want to win every time you take the court," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "Yet, sometimes you don't win and you still feel like you made really positive strides. The only thing that could have made me happier tonight would have been a win. I'm very proud of our guys. I think that we as a team got better today. Despite the loss, we improved."
The win is the seventh consecutive for Lincoln Memorial, however this is the first for the Railsplitters where their foe on that streak has stayed within single digits.
Carson-Newman bounded out to a 16-point lead in the first half on the strength of a 15-3 run. C-N led by double-digits 5:35 into the game after back-to-back fast break buckets from EJ Bush (Oak Ridge, Tenn.) and Jaylan McGill (Charlotte, N.C.). The lead crested to 16, 46-30, with 4:10 to play in the opening half after a Reece Anderson (Douglasville, Ga.) jam.
However, C-N wouldn't hit another shot the rest of the half, going 0-for-12 into the locker room In the interim, LMU closed the half on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to six by halftime, 46-40.
The Eagles and Railsplitters traded blows for much of the second half before LMU exploded for a 15-3 run that erased a double-digit deficit and gave LMU a lead it wouldn't lose with 9:34 to play in the game. Devin Whitfield and Anthony Brown hit back-to-back threes to spark the surge, then the Railsplitters grabbed a two-point edge, 70-68 on a steal by Anthony Brown leading into a transition bucket for the senior guard.
LMU would lead by as many as five, but it wasn't until late that the Railsplitters delivered the death knell. Carson-Newman got five stops in the final 2:30 to keep the deficit to two, but never could get a score on the other end to tie or get over the top. With 48 seconds left, Whitfield buried his fourth three of the game to give LMU its biggest lead of the night at five, 91-86 and for all intents and purposes, secure the win for the Railsplitters.
"You can't catch every raindrop," Benson said. "With them, you know what they really want to do and we tried to impact that. We did a really good job in the first half of limiting their threes. In the second half, we lost some guys in transition. In winning time, Whitfield delivered them with a tough shot against one of our best defenders. They did a good job of attacking the rim in the absence of those threes and getting to the line."
LMU went 24-for-29 at the charity stripe, including 8-for-9 in the final five minutes. The Railsplitters made more free throws in the second half (15), than Carson-Newman attempted in the period (13).
The free throw shooting helped LMU overcome a 45-36 rebounding edge for the Eagles. LMU entered the contest +7.9 on the glass on the season and as the top defensive rebounding team in the SAC.
C-N possessed an 18-3 edge in second chance points as a result. Carson-Newman hit more shots than LMU, going 33-for-81 (40.7 percent) on the night while LMU fired away at a 52.6 percent clip on 30-for-57 shooting. C-N was only 17-of-50 from the field in the first half before shooting 51.6 percent after halftime. LMU made 61.5 percent of its shots, and 6-of-9 threes after halftime.
"Our guys have been much more determined to go get seconds and third," Benson said. "They've always been an elite rebounding team. We wanted to give ourselves as much of a chance as possible because we knew to shoot an effective field goal percentage against them is challenging. We had to get more looks and that worked out for us in some regards."
Bush and Tripp Davis (Nashville, Tenn.) led Carson-Newman with 22 and 18, respectively. Bush went 9-for-15 from the field and hit his first two threes as an Eagle. Davis pulled down a double-double with 10 boards. He also added in four assists and three steals.
Carson-Newman had to contain the triumvirate of Courvoisier McCauley, Whitfield and Cam Henry. The trio combined for 60. McCauley led the way with 21 on 7-of-17 shooting. Whitfield had an efficient 20. The Trevecca Nazarene transfer was 7-for-10 from the field and 4-of-5 from three. Henry had 19, buoyed by a perfect 9-for-9 effort from the line. All five starters for LMU finished in double-figures. The Railsplitters bench had eight points.
Carson-Newman returns home after the Thanksgiving holiday to face Wingate, Saturday at 4 p.m. Coverage will be available on the Eagle Sports Network starting with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff 15 minutes prior to game time on The Mountain 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.