AIKEN, S.C. - A dominant first half and a pair of lengthy scoring runs powered the No. 3 Railsplitters to an 82-61 win over Clayton State in the 2018-19 season opener on Friday night at the USC Aiken Convocation Center.
In a rematch of last season's Southeast Regional semifinal matchup, Lincoln Memorial (1-0) nearly replicated that 87-61 victory over the Lakers (0-1) by limiting the Peach Belt Conference foe to only eight first-half field goals. The Railsplitters led by 28 points at the break and cruised to 21-point win to improve to 10-1 in season openers under head coach Josh Schertz.
"I thought we played really well on both ends of the floor the first 15 minutes, but I guess we just aren't mature enough at this point to play a complete game," Schertz said. "Credit to Clayton State for their response as they were the tougher, more aggressive team in the second half. We need to improve significantly to meet the challenges ahead starting with tomorrow."
Cornelius Taylor led all players with 22 points - with 18 coming in the first half - on 8-for-22 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. Anthony Brown had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards, while Xavier Bledson also had a double-double with 10 points, a team-high 11 rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes of work. Julius Brown chipped in 10 points, while Kamaran Calhoun and Cameron Henry had nine and eight points, respectively.
The Railsplitters were utterly dominant in the opening half, limiting the Lakers to a meager 23.5 percent shooting, including a dreadful 0-for-12 mark from three. At one point, Clayton State went more than nine minutes without converting a field goal.
The Lakers were much improved offensively in the second half, scoring 38 points while bagging five three-pointers. However, that wasn't nearly enough to overcome the 28-point halftime deficit.
Kyle Kincey paced Clayton State with 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting, while Aubrey McRae went 5-of-13 from the field to score 13 points while grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. Justin Tuckson and Christoff Nairn added nine points apiece.
The Railsplitters buried their first three three-point attempts to race out to a 9-4 lead, while a transition dunk from Calhoun extended the lead to 13-5 at the 14:22 mark.
Clayton State cut the deficit to 13-7 with two free throws from Kincey at 13:16, but the Lakers wouldn't score again for nearly four minutes as Lincoln Memorial reeled off 15 unanswered points, which was fueled by seven points from Taylor.
The Lakers briefly stopped the bleeding with a bucket from Nairn, but a layup from Julius Brown and a triple from Henry gave the Railsplitters a commanding 40-11 lead with 6:40 to play in the half.
After a jumper from McRae closed the gap to 45-21, the Railsplitters ended the half on a 6-2 spurt to take a 51-23 lead into the break.
Lincoln Memorial shot 45 percent in the opening half, but struggled mightily on the offensive end in the second frame, converting just 12 of their 38 shot attempts while going 3-for-16 from three.
The Railsplitters managed to score only eight points through the first 10 minutes of the second half, and Clayton State took advantage of that scoring drought by whittling the lead down to 66-49 at the eight-minute mark.
However, Lincoln Memorial never let it get any closer than that and again held the Lakers scoreless for a five-minute stretch to score 13 unanswered points and push the lead to 79-49 by the under-four media timeout.
Clayton State closed out the game on a 12-3 run, but it was too little too late.
Anthony Brown and Calhoun combined for 10 of the Railsplitters' 13 points during that game-clinching run.
- The Railsplitters led for over 95 percent of the game and never trailed by more than two points.
- Lincoln Memorial finished with a 56-51 edge in rebounding. The Railsplitters also dominated the paint with 36 points inside the square.
- The Railsplitters were a little careless with the basketball, committing 16 turnovers that led to 19 Laker points.
Lincoln Memorial concludes the opening weekend of the season on Saturday with a matchup against USC Aiken in Aiken, S.C. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. Live stats, video and audio links are available at www.lmurailsplitters.com.