The Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters have won at least 25 games and played in the NCAA Division II men’s basketball tournament each of the past four seasons. The Queens Royals are coming off a 14-13 season with a multitude of new players.
The difference became apparent by the end of LMU’s 66-51 South Atlantic Conference victory over the Royals (1-3, 1-1) on Saturday afternoon at Curry Arena.
“I told our players that that was an NCAA-tournament level game,” said Queens coach Bart Lundy. “We’re going to have to win some of those if we want to play in it in March.”
Led by 17 points from junior forward Sean Morgan, the Royals stayed close to the Railsplitters (4-0, 2-0) before the visitors went on a 17-6 run in the final seven minutes to close out the game.
But Queens couldn’t overcome a poor shooting night (32.7 percent from the field), which included a 1-of-15 performance behind the three-point arc. The Royals were also hurt by a 39-32 rebounding disadvantage, and the loss of 7-foot senior center Nkosi Ali because of a stomach virus didn’t help matters there.
“I thought our defensive effort against them was good for long stretches, but we just couldn’t make shots,” Lundy said. “They did a good job of defending the rim and we weren’t very good from long distance.”
Sophomore guard Luquon Choice led Lincoln Memorial with 18 points, including 4-of-6 three-pointers.
The Railsplitters gained some breathing room in the final seven minutes of the first half after Queens, down 18-15, missed a couple of shots at making it a one-point or tie game. Lincoln Memorial went to the half with a 31-23 lead helped by a couple of baskets from Choice.
The Royals stayed within striking distance for most of the second half and trailed 51-47 after Morgan’s baseline reverse layup with 5:35 to play.
But Queens scored just two more baskets and Choice drilled a three-pointer from the deep corner for a 56-47 lead with 3:22 to play. The Royals never got closer.
“We have a lot of new guys and it’s been complicated by some injuries here lately, so we’ve been set back about two weeks from where we’d like to be,” Lundy said.
Junior forward Jedarian Jackson scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds for Queens. Guard Lorinza Ross added 13 points for Lincoln Memorial.
Queens’ next game is Wednesday against SAC opponent Coker in Hartsville, S.C. The Royals’ next home game is at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3 against non-conference opponent Livingstone.