LMU holds off upset-minded Tusculum, 83-71, to stay unbeaten

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Unbeaten Lincoln Memorial University opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run to break open a close game and defeat Tusculum College 83-71 in South Atlantic Conference women’s basketball action Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.


Megan Pittman finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds and Shea Coker scored 14 of her 19 points in the second half for the eighth-ranked Railsplitters (16-0, 11-0 SAC), who trailed 35-31 at halftime but outscored the Pioneers 52-36 in the second half to remain undefeated.


Kasey Johnson scored a career-high 28 points for the Pioneers (3-12, 2-9 SAC), who shot a season-high 49 percent (24-for-49) from the field but were dominated on the boards by the Railsplitters. Lincoln Memorial finished the game with a 55-20 advantage in rebounding, including 32 offensive rebounds, and turned those opportunities into 28 second-chance points.


Josey Harding had a game-high 15 rebounds for the Railsplitters and added 15 points, while Sydnie Anderson also reached double figures for Lincoln Memorial with 11 points. The Railsplitters shot just 37.7 percent (26-for-69) from the field but went 25-for-31 from the foul line, including a perfect 15-for-15 in the second half.


Johnson, who has scored in double figures in seven consecutive games, went 10-for-13 from the field, including a pair of three-pointers, and was 6-for-7 at the foul line to surpass her previous high of 25 points set at Anderson on December 19. She was joined in double figures by Benedicta Makakala, who had 11 points along with four rebounds and three assists for the Pioneers.


Lincoln Memorial ran out to a 14-6 lead midway through the first quarter behind five points apiece from Anderson and Coker and four from Harding, but Tusculum scored the final five points of the quarter on three foul shots by Maelyn Head and a jumper by Makakala. The score was tied 15-15 at the end of the first period despite the Railsplitters holding a 21-3 edge in rebounding.


Tusculum extended their run to 12-2 as Johnson hit a three-pointer and a layup and Jasmine Williams scored on a layup to give the Pioneers their largest lead at 22-17 with 6:58 to go in the first half. LMU answered with eight straight points of its own to go on top 25-22 following two free throws from Rachel Griffith with 5:06 left in the quarter, only to see Tusculum respond with a 9-2 run that was capped by a Johnson three-pointer which gave the Pioneers a 31-27 lead with 2:02 remaining in the half.


Tusculum led 35-31 at intermission as Johnson had 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field and 5-for-6 from the foul line. The Pioneers shot 40.7 percent (11-for-27) from the field as a team in the opening half, while the Railsplitters went 10-for-35 (28.6 percent). Harding led LMU with nine points and 13 rebounds as the Railsplitters outrebounded Tusculum 38-9 in the opening half.


The lead changed hands seven times in the third quarter, with Lincoln Memorial going up by five at 46-41 on a basket by Anderson with 5:48 left in the period. Tusculum cut the margin to 54-53 on a steal and layup by Sydney Wilson, but a three-pointer by Pittman restored LMU’s lead to 57-53 with just over a minute left in the quarter. Pittman beat the buzzer on a layup to end the period as the Railsplitters led 59-54 entering the fourth quarter.


After turning the ball over just five times through three quarters, the Pioneers lost the ball five times in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter as the Railsplitters used a 13-2 run to take a 72-56 lead. Coker hit back-to-back three-pointers during the run as the lead eventually grew to as many as 19 points at 81-62 with 2:47 to go. Tusculum scored the final seven points of the game to close the deficit to 12 as time expired.


Wilson finished with nine points on 4-for-8 shooting off the bench for the Pioneers, while Callie Patterson added nine points and a career-high seven assists in 31 minutes of playing time. Head added seven points and went 5-for-6 from the foul line for Tusculum, which shot 20-for-25 (80 percent) as a team at the stripe.


Lincoln Memorial finished the game with 20 turnovers, which Tusculum turned into 22 points, while the Railsplitters scored 18 points off 13 Pioneer miscues. Tusculum had a slim 32-30 edge in points in the paint, as the game featured four ties and 10 lead changes.


Tusculum will head to the road Saturday afternoon for their second meeting of the season with Catawba. The Indians beat the Pioneers 60-55 in Greeneville on Dec. 3. Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m.



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