Ice-cold Railsplitters narrowly avoid being upset in regular season finale at Catawba

SALISBURY, N.C. — The third-ranked Railsplitters (27-1, 21-1 SAC) survived its worst offensive outing in more than six years and outlasted the Catawba Indians (14-14, 11-11 SAC) 60-57 in the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon in Salisbury, N.C.Lincoln Memorial led wire-to-wire in Saturday’s contest despite finishing with a season-worst 34.4 percent (21-for-61) mark from the field. The Railsplitters were even worse from long range, going just 4-for-20 (20 percent) from three-point territory.

It marked the first time since November 24, 2009 that the Railsplitters shot worse than 35 percent, when they suffered a 73-56 loss at Lane University.

Senior Keenan Peterson (College Park, Ga.) led the way with a game-high 17 points and 16 rebounds. The College Park, Ga. native went 6-for-13 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line before fouling out after 37 minutes of action. Junior Curtis McMillion (Fayetteville, N.C.) was the only other LMU player in double-figures as he pitched in 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting with six boards. Luquon Choice (Laurens, S.C.) had nine points, six rebounds and five assists, while Lorenza Ross (Savannah, Ga.) finished with eight points, seven rebounds and a pair of assists.

The Railsplitters overcame their offensive woes with another absolutely stellar defensive performance, limiting Catawba to 33.5 percent (22-for-65) shooting and a 2-for-13 effort (15.4 percent) from three-point range. Lincoln Memorial manhandled the Indians on the glass 51-39 and accounted for 17 second-chance points on 15 offensive rebounds. Peterson and McMillion led the Railsplitters in that department with four offensive boards apiece.

Jerrin Morrison paced the Indians with 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks, while KJ Arrington scored 11 points in 30 minutes off the bench. Troy Warren accounted for 10 points and seven rebounds, while Jameel Taylor finished with nine points, nine rebounds, six assists and three blocks.

The Railsplitters led by as many as nine points in the opening half as a Peterson layup put the visiting unit in front 23-14 with 7:49 left in the frame, but Catawba closed on a 13-5 run to cut the lead to 28-27 at the break.

Lincoln Memorial posted just an 11-for-36 effort (30.6 percent) in the opening frame and went 3-for-13 (23.1 percent) from three-point territory over that span.

A 20-8 run through the first eight minutes of the second half gave the Railsplitters their largest lead of the contest at 48-35. The advantage held at 13 points on a McMillion layup at 9:31, but the Indians slowly whittled away the margin down the stretch.

A quick 5-0 spurt, capped by a Warren jumper at 2:44, trimmed the deficit to 55-49. A Simmons free throw made it a six-point game before Morrison notched an old-fashioned three-point play at 1:25 to pull the Indians to within four points at 56-52.

Another bucket by Simmons made it a two-possession game (58-52), but Arrington buried two free throws and Taylor finished off another three-point play to close Catawba to within one point at 58-57 with 23 ticks left. Simmons was fouled on the ensuing in-bounds pass and coolly drained both freebies to make it 60-57. The Indians had an opportunity to send it to overtime, but Morrison’s three-pointer went begging.

Well before Saturday afternoon’s game was played, the Railsplitters had locked up the No. 1 seed for the upcoming South Atlantic Conference Championship by capturing their third-consecutive regular season title back on February 14 with a win over Lenoir-Rhyne. By virtue of its top four seed, Lincoln Memorial will host its quarterfinal round match-up at Tex Turner Arena. The Brevard Tornados won its last two games of the regular season to clinch the eight-seed, setting up a rematch from January 28 when the Railsplitters throttled the Tornados 88-49 in Harrogate.

The Railsplitters complete the regular season with a 27-1 overall record, just one win shy of matching the SAC single-season record for wins. LMU’s 2013-14 squad established the league’s single-season record with a 28-3 mark.

The Railsplitters host the Brevard Tornados in the opening round of the SAC Championship on Wednesday, March 4. Tip-off in that contest is slated for 7 p.m. in Harrogate.

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