The Lipscomb Bisons and Belmont Bruins were playing for the 125th time, but the pregame buzz was this time around the game was going to be different.
The Bisons prevailed 64-53 in front of a record crowd of 5,414 fans Monday night at Allen Arena. With the win the Bisons move to 5-1 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. ETSU and Campbell are 4-1 in the conference.
It was the fourth win in a row for the Bisons.
Overall, the Bisons are 8-7. Belmont fell to 4-2 in the A-Sun, 9-7 overall.
“I was proud of how we played,” said Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson. “It was a good win for us.”
It certainly lived up to that "something different" billing. As the two teams celebrated the 20th anniversary of when the game between the two rivals was first dubbed the “Battle of the Boulevard” the game proved to be more of a defensive game than an offensive one.
The Bisons shot 36.7 percent for the game, hitting 22-of-60 shots. They were three-of-23 from 3-point range, 13 percent. Belmont shot 35 percent from the field, hitting 21-of-60 tries. They were successful on only 12 percent of their shots from 3-point range, three-of-25.
“When you play those guys we know each other so well it is like a grid lock,” Sanderson said. “It is hard to get good shots on the perimeter and hard to get good shots from the low post.
“It was one of our better efforts defensively. You have to guard if you are going to shoot like we did. If we will guard like that, and play offensively the way we have been playing, then all of sudden there is a huge separation.”
In the first 20 minutes the Bisons missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts. Belmont was much better, hitting one of 11.
The Bisons shot 35.5 percent from the field, hitting 11 of 31 first half attempts. Belmont was held to 28.6 percent from the field, hitting only eight of 28 shots.
After 20 minutes the Bisons held a 25-19 lead.
“I thought we got decent shots in the first half,” Sanderson said. “We just missed them. We haven’t been 0-for-10 on 3-pointers all year long. Again, a lot of the credit goes to Belmont.”
In the second half it was more of the same for both teams.
Belmont cut the Bisons lead to six points, 29-23, with 18:41 left in the game.
The Bisons continued to control the game, twice leading by 16 points. From the 13:15 mark of the second half Belmont was never able to cut the lead to single digits. With 8:30 junior guard Josh Slater sank a pair of free throws with 8:30 remaining for a 49-33 advantage.
Belmont pulled within 10 points, 51-41 on a lay-up by guard Jon House.
The Bisons once again opened up the lead, going ahead again by 16, 61-45, on a fast break lay-up by guard Jacob Arnett.
The biggest lead for the Bisons was 19 points, 64-45, as Slater hit a pair of free throws with 2:18 left.
Belmont closed out the game with a 6-0 run.
“I told our guys to keep moving the basketball and take good shots and they would eventually drop for us,” Sanderson said. “Jordan Burgason hit a couple from the outside and then some other shots started falling for us in the second half.”
Slater scored a game-high 16 points and also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Junior center Adnan Hodzic scored 15 points, extending his double figures scoring streak to 42 straight games. Sophomore forward Brian Wright added 10.
Center Scott Saunders led Belmont with nine points. Forward Jordan Campbell led with six rebounds.
The Bisons head to Florida later this week, playing Thursday in Jacksonville and Saturday against North Florida.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations