Eagles head to Harrogate for rivalry matchup with No. 17 LMU

C-N Game Notes

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Both Carson-Newman (12-6, 9-3 South Atlantic Conference) and No. 17 Lincoln Memorial (14-4, 9-3 SAC) put four-game winning streaks on the line when the teams clash for the 203rd time Wednesday night at 8 p.m. inside LMU's Tex Turner Arena. 

Both teams are locked in a tie for second place in the South Atlantic Conference standings. The Eagles took the first meeting this season 111-109 in overtime on a Malik Abraham (Snellville, Ga.) buzzer beater.  C-N will be looking for its first sweep of the season series since 2011-12.  The series is tied 101-101 all-time between the two clubs. 

The contest, as well as the women's game preceding it at 6 p.m., will be broadcast on MyVLT locally. 

"We know this will be a mighty challenge," head coach Chuck Benson said. "That first game with them was an instant classic.  However, we've changed a lot since that game, and so have they.  I think we are both improved from that day.

"We've had several new players who have emerged as this year has gone on.  There's a more trusting approach, especially offensively. He understand our strengths and weaknesses individually and collectively.  On the flip of it, LMU had some new guys who weren't performing like they are now.  It's scary a little bit how much these teams this year mirror one another." 

Carson-Newman is looking for its first five-game winning streak since the 2014-15 season. The Eagles defeated Newberry, Anderson, Catawba. Lincoln Memorial and Lenoir-Rhyne in succession the last time it happened, from Jan. 24 to Feb. 7 of that year. C-N hasn't lost since a 79-77 setback to Wingate on Jan. 7.  Two days later, LMU would be defeated by Queens 103-101 in overtime.  The Railsplitters haven't lost since. 

LMU, as per usual, factors prominently in the national statistical rankings. You can regard the Railsplitters as the nation's best rebounding team. LMU averages a nation's best 33.39 defensive boards per game. They outrebound their opponents by 9.6 boards per game. That's eighth in the nation and the best figure in the SAC. Carson-Newman has the second best rebounding margin in the league at 6.7 rebounds per game.

Carson-Newman and LMU are tied 101-101 in the 202-game series history of the rivalry, and 3-3 over the last six meetings. However, the rivalry of late has been typified by blowouts. Prior to November's 111-109 OT thriller win for the Eagles, the closest game over the last five meetings is a 100-89 win by LMU over the Eagles in Holt Fieldhouse last year.

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

Chris Perry has transformed into a go-to big man for the Railsplitters in the absence of Emmanuel Terry due to injury, and arguably one of the best big men in the South Atlantic Conference. The senior South Florida transfer is a week removed from SAC Player of the Week honors. He is third in the country in field goal percentage at 68.9.

Since Terry went down with his injury, Perry has elevated his scoring average by more than two points.  He has fueled the Railsplitters with 20-point efforts four of the last six times they've taken the floor. 

"Terry's one of the best defensive players in this conference," Benson said. "But I really can't tell that anything has happened. Perry has stepped up big time for them.  He's one of the best post players in this league." 

LMU guard Luquon Choice is fifth in the nation in threes per game with 3.83 and 11th in three-point percentage at 48.9. He passed former Eagle Ish Sanders for the top mark on the SAC's all-time list for made threes in a career earlier this season.   

Meanwhile, C-N guard Charles Clark (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) is coming off a week in which he earned South Atlantic Conference Player of the Week honors.

The Murfreesboro, Tenn.-native started the week with a 27-point, 13-rebound, six-assist effort in a 100-77 win over Anderson, and followed that up with a 28-point, 13-rebound, seven-assist performance in a 110-91 triumph over Newberry.

For the week, Clark averaged 27.5 points, 13 boards, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game.  He produced back-to-back double-doubles for the first time in his career. 

Entering the week, Kyle Gribble was the only C-N men's basketball player with a 25-point, 10-rebound, five-assist effort for the Eagles this century.  Clark did it twice this week. 

Clark has now strung together 51 consecutive contests where he has scored in double digits.  He has topped 25 in three straight games.  Clark has 37 career 20-point scoring efforts, and 10 this season. 

Clark has been especially effective on the Eagles' four-game winning streak.  He is shooting 67 percent from the field and 57 percent from three-point range.  Both he and Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) have post averages of 20 or more points over the Eagles' last four contests (24.5 and 20.3, respectively).

Williams, Clark, Shaun Jones (Lawrenceville, Ga.). Dawan Perry (Detroit, Mich.) and Cameron Holmes (Fort Mill, S.C.) are all shooting at least 60 percent from the field for the winning streak.  Jones has the top mark among the quintet with a field goal percentage of 69.2 percent. 

That efficiency bears out in the Eagles' team numbers.  C-N is firing away at a 58 percent clip over the last four contests. 

"This is a great opportunity," Benson said. "The first game was as good a situation there was from a fan's perspective and an institutional perspective.  We come into this game with some confidence, with a lot to play for, and a lot of motivation.  They have that same motivation because we're both tied for second in the conference."

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

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