The Lincoln University men's basketball team continues its national championship quest against the top-seeded Virginia Wesleyan College Marlins at the Batten Center in Virginia Beach in a NCAA Division III regional semifinal contest Friday night (8 p.m.).
The fourth-seeded Lions (25-4) face the team with the second longest Division III winning streak in the nation for the right to advance to the Elite 8 against the winner of the No. 6 William Patterson (22-7) and No. 10 Widener (23-5) game on Saturday night. The Marlins (26-3) have won 24 straight games since dropping a 74-62 decision to Hampden-Sydney on November 30.
Friday's game will feature a clash of styles. Lincoln is averaging 97.1 points per game, which is seventh in the nation. The Lions have scored 100 or more points 13 times this season, including four of their last five games. Meanwhile, Virginia Wesleyan yields an average of 63.7 points per game.
The Marlins have been paced all season by 6-5 junior forward Brandon Adair, who leads the team in scoring with an 18.4 point per game average. Sophomore guard Ton Ton Balenga (11.8 points) and 6-5 sophomore forward Tyler Fantin (10.9) are also double-digit scorers for the Marlins, who received a bye into the second round and defeated SUNY-Farmingdale, 71-61 on Saturday.
In rallying past the Rams, champions of the Skyline Conference, Virginia Wesleyan trailed by seven points with 6:15 remaining, before using a 10-point run to take a three-point lead with 2:44 on the clock. Adair scored 20 points and Balenga added 19 points for the Marlins in the win over Farmingdale.
The Lions have posted a 5-3 road record and have won three straight games away from Manuel Rivero Hall. Lincoln has faced a team with a winning record in six of its eight away games. The Lions have already established a school record for wins in a season with 25, surpassing last year's mark of 21.
Making its first appearance in school history in the NCAA tournament, Lincoln defeated Christopher Newport, 102-96 and Messiah College, 100-80, in the opening two rounds behind a pair of balanced performances. In its first round victory over Christopher Newport, the Lions closed the game with a 15-2 run to reverse a seven-point deficit in the final 4:33.
Lincoln's leader has been 6-1 senior guard Kyle Myrick, the nation's leading scorer. Myrick scored 44 points against CNU and added 34 against Messiah. He is averaging 33.7 points per game. Myrick is also second in the nation in assists (7.9) and fourth in steals (3.5). Myrick has scored 30 or more points in nine straight games.
However, the Lions are far from a one-man operation. Junior guard Sami Wylie, who is second on the team in scoring at 18.1 points per game, is third in Division III in 3-pointers made per game (4.4). Wylie scored 20 points in Lincoln's second round victory over Messiah. Sophomores Tyreek Byard, Thomas Hickson, Darryl White and Bryant Leach have all had major moments during the season.
The winners of this weekends regionals will advance next weekend's Final Four at Salem, Virginia.