Eagles hit Timmons Arena for SAC semifinal Saturday slate with LMU
Standing in the Eagles' way is a top-seeded Lincoln Memorial (23-4) club that swept the regular season series with the Eagles. Carson-Newman dropped the first game at Holt Fieldhouse 80-63 before losing at Tex Turner Arena 69-64. The Railsplitters throttled Tusculum to get to Greenville 82-53, while C-N held off a late Lenoir-Rhyne charge to advance 58-54.
The Eagles have yet to force LMU to shoot worse than 40 percent from the field in a half this season. The Railsplitters hit more than 50 percent of their shots against the Eagles this year – the only team to accomplish that feat this year against Carson-Newman's matchup zone.
"There's plenty of motivation for this," C-N head coach Chuck Benson said. "That last loss is still fresh in our minds with what happened in that game. I think our kids are focused and we'll be as prepared as we can be come Saturday."
Jake Troyli and Vincent Bailey lead the way for LMU. The pair of All-SAC first team selections average 13.4 and 13.5 points per game respectively. Troyli went off for 33 in the first meeting between the schools, while Bailey was beastly in the second go around with a 12-point, six-rebound effort.
"Saturday will be a grind-it-out affair, low-scoring affair," Benson said. "Hopefully we're a little tougher mentally to handle that. It's been frustrating because I thought we had the consistency to score and get stops, but for whatever reason down the stretch, we haven't been able to score as well. Maybe Saturday will be the day the rim gets bigger for us again."
One of C-N's first team All-SAC selections Ish Sanders (Cleveland, Tenn.) is averaging 23.5 points against the Railsplitters this season. However, SAC Player of the Year Antoine Davis (Rustburg, Va.) has been held to 13.5 points a game versus LMU this year – nearly six points below his season average.
"You'll have some of the better players in this league going head-to-head," Benson said. "Bailey and Troyli are inside type guys, Ish and 'Toine are outside guys. We're playing on a neutral court so I don't think they'll be gunning it, but we'll need some other guys to step up to help Ish and 'Toine carry this thing for us."
The last time the Eagles lost to LMU, it stopped a then Southeast Region long seven-game win streak for C-N. Now the Railsplitters ride a seven-game win streak that stands matched with Limestone as the longest in the Southeast Region.
The Eagles and Railsplitters tip at 5:30 p.m. from Timmons Arena in Greenville, S.C. Coverage on the Coca-Cola Eagle Sports Network begins at 5:15 p.m. with the Farm Bureau Countdown to Tipoff on 106.3 ESPN Radio the Zone (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com.