C-N opens up SAC play with televised contest against nationally-ranked Railsplitters

C-N Basketball: Chuck Benson previews LMU 11-21-16
Nov 21, 2016

VIDEO: Chuck Benson Interview 

C-N Game Notes

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (3-0) cranks open conference play in a big way with the resumption of its rivalry with No. 2 Lincoln Memorial (3-1) Tuesday at 8 p.m. from inside Holt Fieldhouse.

WVLT will televise the game (and the women's game, which tips off at 6) on its MyVLT channel.  

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"We're excited, obviously," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "I've liked the start to our year, and obviously LMU has started strong as they typically do. Hopefully we're set to have a good competitive conference game to get this rolling."

While the series between the Eagles and Railsplitters is razor thin over its 201 meetings (LMU leads 101-100), and over the last five (LMU leads 3-2), the rivalry of late has been typified by blowouts.

The closest game over the last five meetings is a 100-89 win by LMU over the Eagles in Holt Fieldhouse last year.

The last time a game in the series was decided by fewer than 10 points was Feb 5, 2014, the Eagles won 79-77 over then No. 7 LMU, but even in that game, the Eagles were up 13 with five to play before LMU made a late rally.

All told, only two of the last 10 meetings have been decided by fewer than 10 points,

"I'm not sure what that says," Benson said. "Does that say that teams are coming out and throwing big punches and another's not rallying? I don't know.  I just hope that our preparation and processes put us in the best position to come out with a win."

Carson-Newman is looking for its first 4-0 start since the 2012-13 season.  The Eagles went 5-0 to open up that year before losing 69-57 at Lenoir-Rhyne.

Carson-Newman enters the contest fresh off a 96-91 overtime win over UVA-Wise. 

"Overall, our players know our performance wasn't what we hoped," Benson said. "We were still able to learn from it and pull off the win.  Though it wasn't the best performance, you can't take anything away from Wise because they really played well.  We've used that experience as a tool to address the issues we saw that night."

Meanwhile, Lincoln Memorial is looking to rally from a beating at the hands of No. 5 Alabama-Huntsville. The Railsplitters will be looking to rebound from their worst loss since February 2, 2008 – a 29-point loss to Wingate – on Tuesday night when they invade Holt Fieldhouse. Lincoln Memorial never led and trailed by as many as 31 points in a 91-67 loss to No. 5 Alabama-Huntsville in the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday in Evansville, Ind.

Alabama-Huntsville outrebounded Lincoln Memorial 47-31. The Railsplitters haven't been beaten that badly on the backboards since Carson-Newman accounted for a 51-31 rebounding edge in the 2015 SAC Championship title game.

As a result, the Railsplitters are looking to avoid dropping two straight games for the first time since losing in succession to Anderson and Carson-Newman in February of 2012. Excluding season-ending losses, Lincoln Memorial is 13-0 after a loss since that time.

"That's like poking a grizzly bear with a stick and thinking that he's not going to be upset about it," Benson said. "There's no doubt that that loss will get them more focused.  We expect them to bring their best.  This game brings that out because it has a little more humph to it."

Carson-Newman is the last South Atlantic Conference team to win pretty much anything against the defending national runners-up.  Lincoln Memorial has won 29 consecutive regular-season SAC games. Coincidentally, Carson-Newman is the last league opponent to defeat the Railsplitters in both regular season and tournament play. The Eagles beat LMU 87-72 on February 4, 2015 before capturing a 63-48 win over the Railsplitters in the SAC Championship title game that year.   Lincoln Memorial has also won 24 straight SAC road games. In another unusual twist of fate, Carson-Newman is also responsible for the Railsplitters' last league road loss on February 5, 2014.

Lincoln Memorial is led by senior guard Luquon Choice.  The three-point marksman is on pace to best Carson-Newman alum Ish Sanders' South Atlantic Conference three-point record.  

With 293 made threes, LMU's Luquon Choice is the active career leader for Division II in made triples. He trails only Damon Lynn of NJIT and his 365 made threes as the active career leader for all divisions.

Choice has been especially prolific inside Holt Fieldhouse. As a sophomore, Choice drilled 7-of-14 threes and 12-of-21 shots in helping LMU to a 91-61 win with 34 points. Last season, he one-upped himself by knocking down 10 triples in 17 attempts, and 14 of his 22 shots overall en route to a 38-point effort. 

Carson-Newman has picked up where it left off offensively from a year ago.  The Eagles rank second in the SAC with 96.7 points per game.  C-N also features the conference's most efficient offense, firing away at a 54.5 percent clip from the field and 49.3 percent clip from three. 

Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.), Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky,), Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) and Zack Pangallo (Newport, Ky.) are all averaging double digits for the Eagles.

"I thought we had a chance to be a more point-productive offense," Benson said. "I thought we would have more weapons and more guys who can put the ball in the basket.  I like the balance we have so far."

With a career 61.2 field goal percentage mark, Sawyer Williams is the active leader in Division II in offensive efficiency. He ranks fifth in all divisions.

Carson-Newman is 3-3 against teams ranked inside the top 10 over the last five seasons.

Tipoff between the Eagles and Railsplitters is set for 8 p.m.  Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network starts at 7:45 p.m. with the AEC Countdown to Tipoff on Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live 

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