Division II basketball: Two scoring spurts push No. 1 seed Lincoln Memorial past Barry
FRISCO, TEXAS _ Staring at an 11-point deficit deep into the first half, Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.) responded in the fashion of a No. 1 seed Wednesday afternoon in the quarterfinals of 2016 NCAA Division II Elite Eight at the Dr. Pepper Arena.
The Railsplitters scored the last 15 points in the first half against Barry (Fla.) and the first six points in the second half and never trailed again in their 93-75 victory.
“Our defense was great in the second half,” said Lincoln Memorial coach Josh Schertz. “Our energy was good and our toughness was good the last 30 minutes of the game.”
It was a team effort by Lincoln Memorial. Six players scored in double figures, led by sophomore forward Emanuel Terry, who finished with 20.
“I’m pretty blessed to be part of this team. We have so much depth,” said Terry, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. “If one person is not playing well, coach can always find somebody else. It builds energy. If one person is doing well, it builds onto everybody else.”
Lincoln Memorial, 33-2, will carry a 23-game winning streak into Thursday’s semifinal game scheduled for 6 p.m. It has been a while, but the Railsplitters knew how to respond when they were challenged.
“I don’t know when was the last time we were down in double figures,” Schertz said. “We were punched in the mouth. I told them in the huddle it looked like we were playing against our big brother.”
Once the Railsplitters matched the intensity of Barry, they never slowed down. Lincoln Memorial didn’t allow halftime to cool them off. They came out and immediately got a three-pointer from junior Luquon Choice and senior Jalen Steele, giving Lincoln Memorial a 48-38 lead.
Barry, which finished its season 26-7, slowly fought back, especially when it was down 54-46. Barry 6-foot-9 senior center Tray Leonard floated outside a drilled a three-pointer. He followed that with a free throw. After Lincoln Memorial scored, Leonard scored in the paint. Barry was down 58-54 with plenty of time left.
Defensively, Lincoln Memorial was doing a great job of shutting down Barry senior Yunio Barrueta for most of the second half after he scored 14 in the first half. Barrueta got hot late and finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
“They took Dorian (Pinson) off me and put Choice on me and he is a quicker player and he denied me in the post,” Barrueta said. “Overall, they are really good defensively.”
Still, Barry kept plugging away and got to within three at 63-60 on a three-point play by junior Adrian Gonzales.
Lincoln Memorial simply refueled and geared up for another take off. Senior Gerel Simmons got it started with a basket and that ignited a 17-0 run in which six different players scored. When the run ended, the Railsplitters held an 80-60 lead.
“We came out in the second half and tried to do things differently, but it didn’t seem to work,” said Barry coach Butch Estes. “They continued to hurt us consistently on rebounds.”
RELATED: Division II Men's Basketball bracket
In the first half, an upset was brewing when Barry built a 38-27 lead on the strength of a couple of three-pointers by Barrueta and Arie Williams. The three-point barrage came when Lincoln Memorial took a 17-16 lead. Three straight three-pointers put Barry in front 25-17.
“We were playing at a pretty good pace and were in a pretty good place,” Estes said. “Foul trouble affected us and we had to sub. They made a run at the end of the first half that was keyed by their offensive rebounds.”
The Buccaneers used that momentum to increase their lead to double-digits. But in the last 5 minutes, Lincoln Memorial played like the top ranked team in Division II.
Lincoln Memorial senior forward Curtis McMillion came off the bench and was a force inside. A put-back basket by McMillion started a 15-0 run to end the half for the Railsplitters.
Lincoln Memorial went into halftime ahead 42-38 in large part because of the play of McMillion, who went five for five from the field in the first half for 11 points.
“We were reeling,” Schertz said. “We were down 11. He (McMillion) got a couple of stick backs. He came in and stabilized us.”