LMU men avenge season’s only loss by routing Carson-Newman 91-61

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — Vengeance tasted ever so sweet on Wednesday night as the third-ranked Railsplitters (26-1, 20-1 SAC) punished the Carson-Newman Eagles (14-13, 12-9 SAC) for their lone loss of the season and soared to a 91-61 victory in Jefferson City, Tenn. and Holt Fieldhouse.

Luquon Choice’s (Laurens, S.C.) hot-shooting fronted the near wire-to-wire victory as the sophomore shooting guard matched a career-high with 34 points, falling just one shy of his career-high with seven three-pointers. Choice entered Wednesday’s contest needing three triples to surpass David Hopper (1990-91) for LMU’s single-season record. With 95 three-pointers and the school’s single-season record in tow, Choice has a chance to become just the third player in South Atlantic Conference history to bury 100 treys in a season. Tusculum’s Kyle Moore holds the league record with 117 made threes in 2009-10.

With the memory of an 87-72 loss to Carson-Newman from just three weeks ago fueling the fire, the Railsplitters seemed to play with a controlled anger and focused conviction from start to finish, handing the Eagles’ their worst loss at Holt Fieldhouse since the turn of the century. It was the first time the Eagles have fell by 30 points since November, 2011 as well as the largest win by either team in the series since Carson-Newman defeated the Railsplitters by 30 points on November 30, 2004.

Lincoln Memorial shot 51 percent (30-for-59) from the field, 41 percent (9-for-22) from three and buried 73 percent (22-for-30) of its free throws.

The Railsplitters put on the clamps defensively, holding the Eagles to 36 percent shooting, their second-worst performance of the 2014-15 campaign. Carson-Newman went 6-for-18 (33.3 percent) from three, but helped its offensive effort with a 19-for-22 effort (86.4 percent) from the free throw line.

Including Choice’s 34-point explosion, the Railsplitters put four players in double figures. Senior Lorenza Ross (Savannah, Ga.) played 38 minutes, compiling 12 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, three steals and no turnovers. Gerel Simmons (Accokeek, Md.) logged 11 points with an 8-for-8 mark at the charity stripe, while Dorian Pinson (Greenville, S.C.) poured in 11 points with eight rebounds and three assists.

Aside from LMU’s increased offensive efficiency and Carson-Newman’s decrease in that department, three things changed from the first meeting that violently swung the outcome in the Railsplitters’ favor. In that 15-point win over LMU, the Eagles produced 48 points in the paint. They were limited to just 14 in the interior on Wednesday. Carson-Newman outrebounded the Railsplitters 45-35 on February 4; the Railsplitters flipped that battle 39-29 in Jefferson City. Charles Clark and Carson Brooks combined for 50 points in the first meeting, but that duo was limited to just 17 total points on Wednesday. Clark – who poured in 30 at Tex Turner Arena – had only five points on 1-of-6 shooting.

The Railsplitters dominated the interior despite getting only seven minutes from starting center Keenan Peterson (College Park, Ga.), who had to sit for the last 15 minutes of the first half after drawing two quick fouls. He was needed for only two minutes in the second stanza.

Carson-Newman took the first lead of the ball game as Clark bombed a three-pointer at 18:30, but Ross, Peterson and Choice propelled a 12-3 run over the next five minutes of action to swiftly swing the momentum. Jared Johnson put a tourniquet over the flow with a triple at the 13:10 mark, but the Railsplitters continued to push, extending the lead to 25-11 with two free throws by Simmons at 9:03.

Back-to-back threes by Choice ballooned the lead to 31-11 with 7:41 left in the frame, and the advantage increased to 26 points (39-13) on two more free throws by Choice at 5:28. A 12-3 spurt helped the Eagles trim the deficit to 42-25 with 2:27 left in the period. Pinson and Ross scored buckets in consecutive possessions to increase the lead to 21 points, but Josh Rogers made two free throws to make it a 19-point halftime lead.

The outcome was never in question in the second half as the Railsplitters continued to pull away from Eagles. A bucket by Choice followed up by a steal and layup from Ross extended the LMU lead to 57-31 with just over five minutes gone in the half. After a brief Carson-Newman run, the Railsplitters used a 7-0 flurry to take a 67-38 lead at the 10:34 mark. A Choice trey at 5:54 bludgeoned the lead to 79-48, the largest of the contest.

The Railsplitters turned in their cleanest game of the season, committing a season-low five turnovers. It was the fewest blunders by the program since turning it over four times against Catawba in March, 2013.

Jared Johnson led the Eagles with 19 points in 30 minutes off the bench. Carson Brooks scored 12 points and matched a team-high with five rebounds in 23 foul-plagued minutes. Sawyer Williams logged 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting.

Carson-Newman’s only home loss resembling Wednesday night’s evisceration was a 77-51 defeat at the hands of Tusculum in February, 2010.

The Railsplitters close out the regular season on Saturday with a 4 p.m. tip-off in Catawba.

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