KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a resurgent two-week stretch, the Lincoln Memorial University men’s basketball team ascended to No. 12 in the first NABC/Division II Coaches Poll of the 2013 calendar year, which was unveiled late Tuesday afternoon.
The Railsplitters were ranked 20th in the country in the past two polls before reeling off three straight wins, including a pair over previously unbeaten Southeast Region foes, to move eight spots to No. 12. Lincoln Memorial kicked off that winning-streak with a wire-to-wire victory over the Tornado of King College way back on Dec. 16. The ‘Splitters led by as many as 15 points and held on for a 75-68 win over the previously undefeated Tornado. King has broke into the poll for the first time all season, as they moved into No. 22 this week with a 10-1 mark.
Three days later, the Railsplitters traveled to Augusta State University where they upended the then 12th-ranked and unbeaten Jaguars, 67-53. LMU faced a 9-8 deficit with 15:43 remaining in the first half, but Lorenza Ross netted a jumper with 14:52 to give LMU the lead. The Railsplitters would not relinquish that advantage for the remainder of the contest and built as large as a 16-point advantage en route to the win.
Most recently, Lincoln Memorial returned to the court to host Trevecca Nazarene University in the finale of their season series with the Trojans on Jan. 2. In that contest, LMU narrowly escaped with a 78-75 overtime victory in Tex Turner Arena. LMU trailed by eight with 9:05 remaining in regulation and closed on a 17-9 run to send the game into overtime. Ross broke a 75-75 stalemate by draining the game-winning three with two ticks left on the clock to push the Railsplitters past Trevecca Nazarene.
LMU now sets atop the SAC standings with a 2-0 league mark and a 9-1 overall record.
The Railsplitters’ success this season can be attributed to the combination of a stingy defense along with a balanced and efficient offensive unit. On the offensive end, six players are averaging at least eight points a game with three in the front court and three in the back court compiling those numbers. Forward Jake Troyli currently leads the Railsplitters with 15.2 points per contest while ranking third on the team with 5.8 boards per. Troyli’s points per game average places him ninth in the South Atlantic Conference in scoring this season.
The LMU front court has also been bolstered by the production of Vincent Bailey and Dustin Craig. Bailey ranks second on the team in scoring (12.9 per) and leads the Railsplitters in rebounding (8.0 per), while Craig, this week’s Railsplitter of the Week, is tallying 8.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per. Lincoln Memorial leads the SAC in rebounds per game and ranks 22nd in the nation in rebounding margin (8.0), which is largely a product of the work down low by Bailey, Craig and Troyli, as those three rank third, seventh and 12th respectively in the SAC in rebounds per game.
Lincoln Memorial’s back court has been equally productive this season, as Wally Jones headlines that group with a scoring average of 12.8 per appearance. Jones also leads the guards with 3.7 boards per game and ranks second with 28 assists. Ross is scoring 9.5 points per game and has dished out a team-leading 31 assists, while Cam Carden is pouring in 9.1 points per contest to go along with 28 assists. Carden leads the team in minutes played this season (331) and has amassed a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
On the defensive side, the Railsplitters have limited their foes to 64.6 points per game and 38.9 percent shooting from the field. LMU ranks 24th in the nation in field-goal percentage defense and they pair that number with a national ranking of 20th in field-goal percentage. The Railsplitters rank 10th in the nation in scoring margin, at 17.7 points per contest. Lincoln Memorial leads the South Atlantic Conference in opponent field-goal percentage and opponent three-point field-goal percentage.
The Railsplitters resume SAC play this week with a pair of league battles on tap. They are set to travel to Mars Hill College on Wednesday to take on the Lions. That game tips at 8 p.m. in Mars Hill, N.C. On Saturday, the Railsplitters return to Tex Turner to battle Anderson University in the “Pack the House” contest, slated to be shown nationally on the CBS Sports Network and locally on WVLT Local 8 (Volunteer TV). That game will tip at noon. That gates will open at 11 a.m. with 1,500 white t-shirts and 2,500 white rally towels set to be distributed for free on a first-come, first-serve basis.