HARROGATE, Tenn. — Redshirt-senior guard Luquon Choice poured in a game-high 29 points as the No. 23 Railsplitters (5-2, 1-1 SAC) waltzed to a 91-50 win over the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears (2-4, 1-2 SAC) in the Tex Turner Arena opener on Wednesday night in Harrogate, Tennessee.
Lincoln Memorial built a 15-point cushion at the half and never let off the brakes in the second stanza, outscoring the Bears 46-20 over the game’s final 20 minutes to power the Railsplitters’ most lopsided win in the 23-year history of the series.
“I thought we played with more focus and more purpose,” LMU head coach Josh Schertz said of his team’s second straight blowout victory. “We kind of built on the Virginia-Wise game. In the second half, we defended as well as we have for a half all year. Our help was better and our rotations were better. Offensively, we took care of the ball and only had five turnovers. If we take care of it, move it and take good shots, we’ve got a chance to score points.”
Choice keyed Lincoln Memorial’s offense with a game-high 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting and a 7-for-12 mark from 3-point range. He scored 19 of his 29 points in the first half and added four rebounds with a pair of steals.
Trevon Shaw chipped in 12 points in 23 minutes off the bench, while Chris Perry produced 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Emanuel Terry contributed nine points and six rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
As a team, the Railsplitters shot 50 percent from the field, converting 33 of their 66 shot attempts. Lincoln Memorial went 13-for-32 from deep for a 40.6 percent clip and finished with 18 assists and only five turnovers. Ten players had at least three points for the Railsplitters.
On the other end of the floor, Lincoln Memorial stifled Lenoir-Rhyne by holding the Bears to a 33.9 percent clip, including a dismal 4-for-17 effort from 3-point range. L-R mustered just 20 points in the second half on 7-for-24 shooting and a 1-for-10 mark from three.
“We haven’t had a ton of prosperity this year, but when we have had prosperity we’ve had trouble dealing with it,” Schertz said. “What we talked about at the half was trying to come out and commit ourselves defensively and do a better job on the ball. I was really pleased with the second half overall. I thought that was the best 20 minutes we’ve played this season to this point.”
The Bears kept pace with the Railsplitters early in the first half and grabbed a 6-5 lead on a jumper by Reed Lucas with 17:43 to go. However, Lincoln Memorial established firm control over the next stretch, using an 8-2 spurt to take a 13-8 lead on a 3-pointer from Choice at 14:36.
Lenoir-Rhyne would never lead after that but closed to within three points on a jumper by Jarvis Calhoun at 13:19. The Railsplitters had an answer for that as well and eventually pulled ahead 25-15 on a fast-break jumper by Choice at the 8:45 mark, which was set up by a monster block from Perry on the other end.
Lenoir-Rhyne would trim the Railsplitters’ lead to eight points on three different occasions over the next stretch, but that’s as small as the deficit would get, while Choice’s fifth 3-pointer of the half followed by a dunk from Perry pushed Lincoln Memorial out to a commanding 43-28 advantage with just over a minute remaining in the half.
Choice buried two free throws with a second left to tidy up his 19-point half and send the Railsplitters into the break with a 45-30 lead.
The Railsplitters officially put the game away early in the second half, canning eight of their first nine shots to power a 21-7 run. Yet another 3-pointer by Choice completed that flurry and gave Lincoln Memorial its largest lead of the game up to that point at 66-37 with just over 14 minutes to play.
The two teams were mired in a long scoring drought over the next stretch, but the Railsplitters used a 6-0 spurt comprised of buckets from Choice, Perry and Dorian Pinson to build an overwhelming 75-41 advantage with nine minutes to go.
The Railsplitters never led by less than 30 points after that and pulled ahead by 40 at 84-44 on a 3-pointer from Rhondi Hackett with 5:58 to play. The LMU lead would crest at 44 (91-47) before Ben Zemonek buried a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to cut the final deficit to 41.
Zemonek was the only L-R player to finish in double figures as he posted 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting in 26 minutes off the bench. Jarvis Calhoun and Jalen Variste had nine points apiece. The Bears’ leading scorer, Reed Lucas, finished with just four points on 2-of-6 shooting.
The Railsplitters play the second leg of a three-game homestand on Saturday at 4 p.m. when they hosts the Coker Cobras in South Atlantic Conference action. The Cobras have won three straight games and will be returning to the court for the first time since Nov. 22.
A 15-0 run late in the first quarter broke open a close game as the 20th-ranked Lady Railsplitters cruised to the 73-51 South Atlantic Conference win over Lenoir Rhyne Wednesday evening.
With the win LMU (7-0) equals the best start in the modern era with the 1991-92 team.
Shea Coker led all scorers with 13 points. Megan Pittman picked up her 20th career double-double as she had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Reigning SAC Player of the Week Josey Harding also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Karsen Sims also chipped in 10 points.
Morgan Cooper and Alecia Bell led Lenoir-Rhyne with 10 points apiece.
For the sixth time this season, LMU outshot their opponent. This time they hit 40.7 percent of their shots to the Bears’ 32.5 percent. The Lady Railsplitters shot 40 percent from 3-point range while L-R did not hit a 3-pointer. Despite their poorest free throw shooting of the season, LMU still outperformed L-R by a 67.9 percet-to-59.5 percent margin.
Defense also was a strength for the Lady Railsplitters as they controlled the boards by a 42-32 margin and forced the Bears into 23 turnovers, which LMU converted into 25 points. LMU also had 16 offensive rebounds, which they converted into 16 second-chance points.
After a Pittman 3-pointer put LMU ahead 3-0, the teams traded baskets until two free throws by Chelsey Romero put the Bears up 8-7 at the 6:03 mark. Lenoir-Rhyne then went ice cold from the field as a Sims 3-pointer sparked a 15-0 LMU run over the next 4:54 to make the score 22-8. A pair of Cooper free throws would cut it to 22-10 after the first stanza.
The Bears would cut the lead to eight several times in the second quarter, but each time the Lady Railsplitters had an answer. Following a Dasia Maxwell layup as time expired, LMU took a 35-22 lead into halftime.
LMU would extend the lead over the third and fourth quarters, leading by as much as 25 after Rachel Griffith took the ball out of Justyce Swango’s hands and rocketed down the court for a fast-break layup with 4:08 remaining.
Free throws by Sydney Barrow and Kendall Caudle sealed the deal for the Lady Railsplitters as they picked up the 22-point victory.
The Lady Railsplitters will play their second game of the three-game conference home stand as they host Coker Saturday afternoon. Tip-off against the Cobras is set for 2 p.m. in the Tex Turner Arena. Live stats, audio and video links for that game can be found at LMURailsplitters.com.