NASHVILLE, TENN. – It had been 21 days since the last Lipscomb University victory. Five games. Five losses by a combined 20 points. The Bisons were thirsty for a victory.
Saturday afternoon the Bisons (7-11, 3-6 A-Sun) delivered a total team effort in front of a “Family Day” crowd in Allen Arena snapping the losing streak with a 84-68 victory over the Mercer Bears (10-9, 4-4 A-Sun).
Josh Slater led the Bisons with 21 points. He barely missed a double-double with nine rebounds. He also blocked two shots and had two assists in 28 minutes of play.
“Josh Slater played solid for us,” said Lipscomb head coach Scott Sanderson. “He had a few too many turnovers, but he is playing really good for us. He’s making all of his free throws down the stretch and so we want to get the ball into his hands near the end of the game.”
The Bears were first to attack jumping to a 12 point lead with a 3-pointer by James Florence with 12:50 left in the first. The Bisons responded with a 10-2 run to close the game to 23-19 at the 9:10 mark.
Lipscomb didn’t score again until Thomas Pfaff connected on a layup in the paint with 4:06 left. Pfaff’s layup started a 14-0 run for the Bisons.
Michael Lusk nailed a jumper and Brian Wright drained a 3-pointer to cut Mercer’s lead to three. The Bisons forced a five-second violation with full court pressure defense. Pfaff nailed a jumper seconds later and a Jordan Burgason 3-pointer on the next possession gave the Bisons their first lead of the game 31-29.
Pfaff tipped-in a missed Wright 3-pointer with 44 seconds left in the half to give Lipscomb a 33-29 lead. Florence connected on a 3-pointer for Mercer, but Michael Teller responded with a 3-pointer to give Lipscomb a 36-32 lead at the half.
“I really think the game was won with the run at the end of the first half,” Sanderson said.
Slater hit a 3-pointer with 7:55 left in the game to put the Bisons up 61-53. The Bisons, who have struggled to hold late leads in January, held the advantage until Mercer’s E.J. Kusnyer hit a free throw with 1:25 remaining to bring the Bears within seven (72-65).
A free throw by Jimmy Oden and a three-point play put the Bisons back up by 11 with 1:04 left.
Lipscomb made their final ten free throws of the game, including six in the final 30 seconds to push the Bisons lead to 16.
“We played good the last 30 minutes of the game,” Sanderson said. “We didn’t play so great the first ten minutes because we couldn’t stop them defensively, but I thought we were pretty consistent the last 30 minutes.”
Lipscomb’s bench scored 30 points, the most since scoring 42 at North Florida on Dec. 4. Every Bison that played scored at least five points.
“Jordan Burgason, Jimmy Oden, Brian Wright, and Thomas Pfaff were all really good off the bench,” Sanderson said. “We had a great bench production today and it was a total team effort.”
The Bisons dominated on the boards 51-24. Their 27 board advantage was the most since the Bisons outrebounded Fisk 53-22 on Nov. 27, 2004. Michael Teller led the Bisons with 10 rebounds to tie a career high.
The Bisons had 16 offensive rebounds which they converted into 16 second chance points. Mercer had seven offensive rebounds and just three second chance points.
Lipscomb still struggled with turnovers committing 22. Only five of those turnovers were forced.
“Twenty-two turnovers are just way too many to win close games,” Sanderson said. “We have to do a better job taking care of the ball.”
Joining Slater in double-figures was Adnan Hodzic (13) and Thomas Pfaff (10). Hodzic and Slater have scored ten or more points each in the last five games.
Lipscomb shot 26-of-54 (48.1 percent) on the afternoon. Mercer was 27-of-62 (43.5 percent) from the field.
Lipscomb was 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) from the 3-point line. Mercer was 6-of-19 (31.6 percent). Florence was five-of-eight for the Bears.
The Bisons shot 26-of-36 (72.2 percent) from the free throw line. Mercer was 8-of-15 (53.3 percent). Slater was a perfect seven-of-seven at the line.
The Bisons are back in action Monday evening in Allen Arena against Kennesaw State. Game time is 7 p.m.
Jonathan Seamon and Benjamin Seamon will be on the call for the Lipscomb Sports Network. Free online audio streaming is available at www.LipscombSports.com/sportsnetwork/. The game can also be seen on ASun.TV.
Article by Trevor Garrett of the Lipscomb Athletic Office of Media Relations