AIKEN, S.C. — The 13th-ranked and second-seeded Lincoln Memorial University Railsplitters rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit, but three-seeded Barton College Bulldogs had a late 21-8 run to oust LMU from the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional 76-61 on Sunday.
For the second-consecutive season, LMU (25-6) saw the season end in the semifinals of the southeast regional.
Barton (23-7) advanced to the regional final to play the winner of No. 4 Wingate and No. 1 USC-Aiken.
The Railsplitters and Bulldogs played to a near draw throughout much of the first half, with five ties and nine lead changes over the first 13 minutes.
The largest lead during the span was a 16-13 advantage for LMU on a layup by Chance Jones at the 11:52 mark, while Barton grabbed a 7-4 lead on an offensive rebound and a dunk by Jon Hart at the 17:18 mark.
Vincent Bailey brought the game to its final tie of the first half with a layup at the 6:39 mark to square the game at 21-21. However, the Bulldogs had the final lead change of the period, as they used three-pointers by Chris Flemmings and Tristan Thomas for 11-unanswered points and a 32-21 lead by the 4:37 mark.
Jones stopped the bleeding for LMU with a six-for-six effort from the charity stripe over the last four minutes of the half. The Railsplitters were held without a field goal for the remainder of the half following Bailey’s game-tying bucket with 6:39 left.
From the 11:03 mark of the first stanza, the Railsplitters were limited to only two field goals. The Bulldogs answered Jones’ six free throws to end the half with two free throws apiece by Flemmings and Gerald Boston for a 38-27 lead.
The two-headed attack of Boston and Flemmings carried the Bulldogs’ offensive attack in the first half, as those two combined for 24 points with Boston leading that duo with 14.
Barton was held to 35 percent shooting in the frame. However, Barton canned six three-pointers and earned a 22-20 advantage on the glass and nine offensive boards to assume the lead.
The full-court pressure by the Bulldogs limited the Railsplitters to 33 percent shooting in the half, forcing LMU into eight turnovers. Jones spearheaded the offense in the first frame with eight points.
After the break, LMU cut the deficit to 47-43 at the 15:32 mark of regulation on a three pointer by Cam Carden, capping a 9-0 run for the Railsplitters. LMU was seven-for-eight from the field over that opening stretch of the second half.
Keith Manley followed Carden’s three with a pair of free throws, but Jones answered with a layup to keep the score at only a four-point advantage for the Bulldogs with 14:29 to play.
Barton briefly extended the lead to eight at 53-45 following four-unanswered points by Boston. The Railsplitters fought back, using an 8-2 run fueled by four points from Dustin Craig and capped with a jumper by Tim Pierce at the 9:40 mark to make it a two-point game.
Despite cutting to within two, the Railsplitters would go dormant on the offensive end. The Bulldogs reasserted themselves offensively for the remainder of the game.
The Bulldogs broke away from the Railsplitters with a 9-2 run ,concluded with a pair of jumpers by Boston to extend the lead to 64-55 at the 6:25 mark. The Railsplitters briefly countered with a jump shot by Vincent Bailey and two free throws by Lorenza Ross. Then, Barton scored six-unanswered points for a double-digit lead which the Railsplitters were unable to overcome.
After Tim Pierce netted his jumper to cut the deficit to two at the 9:40 mark, the Railsplitters were limited to only one field goal for the remainder of the game. The Bulldogs finished on a 21-8 run to grab the victory. The only other points over that span for the Railsplitters came at the charity stripe.
The Railsplitters rebounded from a poor shooting performance in the opening half to tally a 43.5 percent clip from the field, however, they finished with a three-for-11 mark from long range. LMU was edged 38-34 on the boards, while Barton also won the turnover battle, 16-7.
The loss by Lincoln Memorial spoiled a stellar performance by Jones of Knoxville. he notched 18 points, with 10 coming in the second half. Jones nailed four of his eight shots from the field and went nine-for-nine from the charity stripe, battling through foul trouble. The only other Railsplitter in double figures was Vincent Bailey of Jennings, Fla., as the junior forward posted 12 points in 28 minutes of action.
Senior Dustin Craig, also of Knoxville, put in nine points and matched a team-high eight rebounds off the bench in his final game with the Railsplitters. Also playing in his final game, Jake Troyli (Largo, Fla.) raked in eight rebounds, but struggled offensively with only two points. Lorenza Ross (Savannah, Ga.) chipped in with seven points.
Senior Cam Carden (Clearwater, Fla.) played all 40 minutes for the Railsplitters, contributing five points, three assists and a rebound in his final game at LMU.
The Bulldogs were limited to a 41.3 percent effort from the field. They hit eight threes and 16-for-17 from the charity stripe. Boston was the story of the contest for Barton, as he compiled a game-high 30 points, marked by a 10-for-10 effort from the free-throw line. Boston added a game-high seven assists and three boards in 37 minutes of work.
Keith Manley added 12 points on five-of-11 shooting, while Flemmings sparked the Bulldogs off the bench with 13 points on a three-for-seven mark from deep.
The 2012-13 season saw LMU record their fourth-consecutive 20-win season, as they have amassed a 98-24 mark over that span.
Four-year seniors Wally Jones, Cam Carden and Dustin Craig will leave LMU as the all-time winningest players in the history of the program.
The Railsplitters will begin the 2013-14 season in the midst of a South Atlantic Conference record streak of 42-consecutive weeks ranked inside the NABC/Division II national poll.