When Lipscomb center Adnan Hodzic took his turn to cut down the nets at Allen Arena he came away with the biggest chunk.
That was appropriate since Hodzic’s performances in the last two games of the season are the reasons the Bisons have earned a share of the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament in Macon, Ga.
“I decided I was going to take something that I can hang on the mirror of my car so people can see it,” Hodzic said.
The Bisons started off slow, but came back strong in the second half to beat Mercer 85-73 to close out the regular season. More than 2,200 fans were on hand for the game which was part of homecoming activities.
“We came out playing like we were worried about something,” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “We didn’t come out with a lot of pop in the first half. The last 10 minutes of the first half we guarded better.
“Mercer can score a lot of points in a hurry. They had something like 20 points in the first eight minutes. For awhile I thought the score was going to be 200-200.”
The Bisons went into the game knowing that ETSU had beaten Jacksonville 64-62 earlier in the day. The Bisons, 14-6 in the conference, tied with Jacksonville, Campbell and Belmont for the regular season title. Lipscomb and Jacksonville were the preseason favorites to tie for the regular season championship based on a poll of the conference coaches.
“We didn’t say one word before the game about Jacksonville losing,” Sanderson said. “The players already knew about it, but we didn’t say anything.”
The win completed a sweep of Mercer. The Bisons beat them 98-89 to open the A-Sun portion of the season on Dec. 3.
The Bisons had all of the tie breakers in their favor because they beat Belmont twice this season. They will play Kennesaw State, the No. 8 seed, at 1:30 p.m. in Macon, Ga., in the first round of the conference tournament.
“We have to get rested up and get some guys healed up,” Sanderson said. “Our whole thing is how well do we defend and how well do we rebound. If we do those two things well our chances of winning elevate in a hurry.”
This is the second time the Bisons have won the regular season Atlantic Sun Championship. The first was in 2006.
Hodzic led all scorers with a career-high 37 points, the most for a Bison in over eight years. It is the 56th straight game that Hodzic has scored in double figures. Hodzic also grabbed 17 rebounds, the 10th time this season and the second game in a row that he has recorded a double-double.
“I had been playing tentative,” Hodzic said. “I was trying not to foul. People think I've had a great year, but there are a lot of games where I was upset with myself. I should have been getting double figures in rebounds in every game.”
In Thursday’s 74-66 win over Kennesaw State Hodzic, 6-foot-9, 255 pounds; scored 24 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, also a new school record.
“His size and his strength are definitely God-given,” guard Josh Slater said. “He also puts the hours in the gym in the offseason, in practice and after practice. He is definitely a product of hard work.”
Also in double figures for the Bisons were forward Jordan Burgason with 17, Slater with 12 and forward Brandon Brown with 11.
The Bisons were down at four at the half, 36-32. It was hard luck first 20 minutes as few things went in the Bisons favor.
They persevered, taking a five-point lead early in the second half at 40-36 with 18:45 left in the game on a 3-point shot by Burgason.
The game was a dogfight for much of the second half. The Bisons took the lead at 37-36 in the second half with 19:18 on the clock as Hodzic connected on a jumper in the lane.
With 11:41 to play Hodzic scored on a layup to give the Bisons a 53-47 lead. That six-point advantage was the biggest for any team in the second half to that point.
In the final 9:30 minutes the Bisons led by double figures with the exception of the 5:54 mark when Brandon Moore hit a free throw for Mercer to trim the lead to 66-57.
Mercer placed four players in double figures with guard Jeff Smith leading with 17. Guard James Florence added 13 followed by guard E.J. Kusnyer with 12. Forward Brandon Moore, a former Bisons player, finished with a double-double with 14 rebounds and 14 points.
Mercer played without star forward Daniel Emerson who averages 15.4 points and 12 rebounds per game.
“They have a very good team,” Sanderson said. “It was a quality win. It is unfortunate that Emerson was hurt. Hopefully, he will get back.”
The Bisons are 17-12, 14-6 in the A-Sun. Mercer is 14-16, 10-10 in the A-Sun.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.