HARROGATE, Tenn. - A valiant comeback effort by the Newberry College men's basketball team was thwarted Saturday night, as Lincoln Memorial University prevailed, 75-68, in the regular season finale for both sides.
With the loss, Newberry (12-14, 6-10 SAC) drops from fifth place in the conference to the seventh seed entering the 2007 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament. Pairings will officially be announced Sunday.
The Indians were led in scoring by Clemente Martin (Freeport, Bahamas), who tallied 17 points while collecting six rebounds. Cory Etheridge (Columbia, S.C.) netted 11 markers, while Zach Chandler (Greenville, S.C.) scored 10 points.
Terrance Spillers (Charleston, S.C.) scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds, 10 of which came on the offensive end of the floor.
Lincoln Memorial (13-14, 7-9 SAC) jumped out to an early 11-4 lead with 16:49 left in the opening period on three triples from David Lopez and a layin from Kai Wells.
Neither team scored for the next 4:02 until Newberry freshman Danny Friend (Atlanta, Ga.) converted a three-point play to make it 11-7 with 12:47 before the break.
LMU pulled away for a nine-point lead twice over the next four minutes, but a three-pointer from Matt Alexander (Norcross, Ga.) followed by two Etheridge free throws made it a one-point margin at 28-27 with 1:31 until the half.
However, the Railsplitters gave themselves a 33-27 halftime cushion on another Lopez triple and a layup from Artavius Mitchell.
Lopez scored 16 of his game-high 23 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 5-of-6 from behind the arc.
Newberry scored the first bucket of the second stanza on a shot in the paint from Kendrick Johnson (Orangeburg, S.C.), but LMU quickly pulled away.
The Railsplitters went on a 22-6 run over an eight-minute span, taking it to a 20-point lead at 55-35 with 11:29 to play.
But the Indians would not go away quietly, instead making the Tennessee outfit sweat the result out to the end.
A 19-4 Indian rally punctuated by a Martin layup with 4:44 to play brought Newberry to within five. The run was highlighted by out-of-the-ordinary offensive rebounds and putbacks from Tommy Burke (Newberry, S.C.) and Tyler Fisher (Social Circle, Ga.), as well as a Burke triple and 12 points from Martin.
But the Indians could get no closer than three points down the stretch as their outside shots could not find the twine and LMU converted on 10-of-14 free throw opportunities in the final five minutes.
Newberry outrebounded LMU by a whopping 53-30 margin, with the Indians grabbing 28 offensive boards.
But the tale of the game came down to three-point shooting and free throws.
LMU converted seven three-point shots compared to Newberry's four, and the Railsplitters sank 16-of-24 free throws while the Indians were 12-of-18.
The Indians now enter the do or die portion of their season as they enter the Food Lion SAC Tournament, hitting the road for their quarterfinal matchup. Pairings will officially be released Sunday morning.