GREENVILLE, S.C. – Third-seeded Wingate outscored 11th-ranked and top-seeded Lincoln Memorial University 48-25 in the second half en route to a 69-53 victory in the South Athletic Conference championship Sunday at Timmons Arena. The Bulldogs improved to 21-8 in winning the SAC tourney for the second consecutive season and for the fifth time in school history.
“Obviously we are excited to be playing in another NCAA Tournament,” Wingate head coach Brian Good said. “One of biggest factors is our experience we got last year. Hopefully that will have us ready to play.”
Senior guard Paidrick Matilus and sophomore guard Ryan Daye led a balanced Wingate attack with 14 points each. Matilus added three steals. Junior center Deion Turman piled up 12 points and 15 rebounds, while senior guard Ethan Kincaid had 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Senior forward Odell Turner contributed seven points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Bulldogs.
“These guys continue to make believers out of me,” Good said. “They have an incredible never-say-die attitude. We are always at our best when our backs are against the wall. The defensive effort in the second half was unbelievable. We helped well, rotated and we were together as one. When you do that you have a chance to be really good on that end.”
Matilus was named the tournament MVP, while Turman joined Matilus on the all-tournament team. “Paidrick probably got MVP honors for his scoring, but he was our defensive MVP [Saturday night] and again [Sunday],” Good said. “I can’t imagine a more deserving player after the effort he gave on both sides of the ball. Deion’s effort on glass was just phenomenal.”
Vincent Bailey had a game-high 15 points to lead the LMU attack, adding 12 rebounds and two blocks. Chance Jones added 13 points and four rebounds, while Lorenza Ross had 10 points for the Railsplitters. Cam Carden handed out a game-high five assists for LMU. Bailey and Jones earned all-tournament honors, along with Carson-Newman’s Ish Sanders.
Kincaid knocked down a pair of early 3-pointers to give Wingate an 8-4 lead four minutes into the contest. LMU tied the game at 12 on a layup from Jones. A jumper in the lane from Daye put the Bulldogs on top 16-14, but LMU closed the half on a 14-5 run. Bailey had four points in the spurt, while a 3 from Carden with three seconds left in the half gave the Railsplitters a 28-21 halftime advantage.
A three-point play from Bailey on the first possession in the second half gave LMU a 10-point lead. Matilus answered with a three-point play, then added a triple while a Turner layup cut the lead to four. Senior guard Eddie Lewis knocked down a 3 with 15:30 remaining to make it a one-point game. Jones answered with a 3 to push the LMU lead back to four, but a Kincaid layup and Turman dunk tied the game at 38-38. Turman followed with a putback to give Wingate its first lead of the half, then knocked down a short jumper to make it 42-38 with 10:48 to go.
A rebound and layup from Curtis McMillion got LMU back to within two with 9:52 remaining. Daye answered with a layup and a jumper, while two Matilus free throws pushed the Bulldogs’ advantage to eight at the 8:28 mark. After a pair of LMU free throws, Daye buried a triple. Turman followed with a free throw to give the ‘Dogs their first double-digit lead of the game with 6:36 remaining.
LMU answered with a quick 6-0 run, cutting the lead to 54-50 on a 3 from Ross with five minutes to go. Turman answered with another rebound and layup for Wingate, while a Matilus layup with 3:26 to go pushed the lead back to eight. Daye followed with a 3 to make it 61-50, while an emphatic dunk from Turner put Wingate on top by 13 with 1:35 remaining. LMU would get no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Wingate shot 34.8 percent from the field, hitting six of 18 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent). LMU (24-5) shot 40 percent from the field, but the Railsplitters were just 9-for-29 in the second half (31 percent). Lincoln Memorial was 6-for-10 from 3-point range (60 percent). The Bulldogs held a 47-36 rebounding advantage, while holding a 29-8 edge in second chance points. Wingate converted 14 LMU turnovers into 17 points.