Jan. 12, 2007
Lipscomb basketball coach Scott Sanderson often talks of the importance of stealing games on the road.
The trip was a short one down Belmont Boulevard, but the Bisons came away with one of the biggest thefts in the history of the program with a 55-50 Atlantic Sun win over arch-rival Belmont in round one of the "Battle of the Boulevard." Among the witnesses Friday night at the Curb Event Center were more than 600 Lipscomb students.
"We needed this one just to get back in the race," Sanderson said. "They are 6-1 and we are 5-2 so we are still hunting them.
"I know our guys were very hungry to get a win. I liked the energy and effort our team played with. Our team seems to respond when we have our backs against the wall. And we have our backs against the wall a little bit if we want to achieve our first goal which is to win the league."
The Bisons win ended an overall 12-game winning streak against A-Sun teams for Belmont and a 14-game winning streak on their home court.
The Bisons used a stifling defensive performance to neutralize Andrew Preston and Boomer Herndon inside while also keeping a close eye on the Bruins 3-point shooters. The Bisons scored 18 of their points off of turnovers.
The turning point of the game came at the 3:51 mark of the first half when Lipscomb forward Eddie Ard went high for a dunk to cut Belmont's lead to 24-18. That play sparked a 15-1 run by the Bisons that extended into the second and gave them a lead they would not relinquish.
"The last four or five minutes of the first half and the first five or six minutes of the second half I thought we were about as good as we could be defensively," Sanderson said. "
Belmont pulled within two points at 35-33 with 9:42 left to play on a lay-up by Will Peeples.
The Bisons responded with a 10-0 run that the Bisons extended into a 12-point lead, their biggest of the night at 45-33 with 4:30 left on a pair of free throws by Ard.
The Bisons struggled offensively, especially in the first half when they shot 31 percent from the field, hitting 9 of 29 attempts. The Bisons rallied to hit 36.7 for game, connecting on 18-of-49 shots.
From 3-point range the Bisons hit only 3 of 26 tries. They missed all eight of their 3-point attempts in the second half.
"We didn't shoot the ball particularly well, and I'm sure Belmont had a lot to do with that," Sanderson said. "I liked the shots we got, especially in the first half. We just didn't make them. Belmont has definitely improved its defense a lot."
The Bisons made 10 steals in the game and scored 18 points off of turnovers.
"One of the keys was all of the loose balls and the second shots that we got," Sanderson said. "When we missed shots we chased those loose balls down. That is what I liked the most. That allowed us to spend more time on the offensive end of the floor."
Belmont also struggled to score, hitting 19 shots on 50 attempts from the field for 38 percent. Belmont hit 7 of 24 tries from 3-point range for 29.2 percent.
Henry Harris led Belmont with 13 points. Preston grabbed six rebounds to lead his team, but neither he nor Herndon scored in the second half.
The Bisons went to the free throw line for 29 shots, hitting 16. Belmont made on eight free throw attempts, hitting five.
Despite giving up the height advantage inside the Bisons held a 38-32 edge on the boards.
The Bisons are 5-2 in the A-Sun, 11-7 overall. Belmont lost is first conference game of the season, falling to 6-1, 12-6 overall.
"If we had gotten beat we wouldn't be in control of what goes on," Sanderson said. "We would need help from other teams. Even though we lost those two we are still in control of what goes on. We have a lot of difficult games ahead of us."
The second round of the "Battle of the Boulevard" is Feb. 9 at Allen Arena. Another tough game is expected.
This was the first time that the two teams have faced each other since Belmont won 74-69 in overtime in the championship game of the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
"I've said since about five minutes after that game ended last year in Johnson City that Lipscomb was going have the psychological advantage coming into this year," Belmont coach Rick Byrd,. "They put the slogan `Unfinished Business' on their media guide. If that meant something else I want somebody to tell me what it is.
"They played great. Their game plan was far better than mine."
The Bisons next game is on the road Thursday at Gardner-Webb.