Basketball coaches talk about playing 40 minutes, but for the Lipscomb Bisons 24 minutes was enough against Belmont.
Trailing 38-20 with 4:03 left in the first half the Bisons changed gears, pulling to within nine points at 40-31 at intermission. They carried their renewed game plan into the second half Tuesday night to end Belmont’s Atlantic Sun unbeaten streak 73-64 in front of a sold out crowd of 5,122 at Allen Arena.
The secret to that crucial change was a timeout at 3:44 when Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson decided it was time to stop mincing words with the second “Battle of the Boulevard” slipping away.
“For the first 16 minutes we were not very good,” Sanderson said. “We didn’t do anything we wanted to do offensively and defensively. I was extremely aggravated at our players.”
Despite having only one day between games to work on a game plan for Belmont, Sanderson had an effective plan in place.
“We had worked too hard,” Sanderson said. “We had a game plan and for 16 minutes we didn’t do it offensively or defensively. We lost guys on back cuts. We rushed offensively.
“We told our players during the timeout to just do what we had asked them to do to the best of their abilities. Our players got off of the mat and listened."
In the final four minutes of the first half the Bisons outscored Belmont 11-2. In the second half the Bisons held a 42-24 scoring edge.
“That is just a credit to our players,” Sanderson said. “Sometimes when you are frustrated the easy thing to do is to point fingers. We didn’t allow that to happen.
“To come back from an 18-point deficit says even more about the resiliency of our players. But it is one game with nine more games to go. We have 32 days to keep getting better until March gets here.”
The Bisons are 12-8 overall, 7-4 in the conference. Belmont is 18-4 overall, 10-1 in the A-Sun.
Center Adnan Hodzic, held to seven points at Belmont Jan. 13 in an 88-52 loss, scored a game-high 26 points. Forward Brandon Brown recorded his second double-double of the season with 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“This whole season has been a grind,” Hodzic said. “I really didn’t think it could get any harder than last season, but it did. “I had to learn to have blind trust in my coaching staff. And in my opinion we have the best coaching staff in the country. I had more space in the low hole than I have had in a conference game this year.”
Hodzic also credited the fans for the win.
“I honestly don’t think we could have done it without the fans,” Hodzic said. “On some of the put backs and some of the close buckets the fans went nuts. They gave us energy whether they believe it or not. They were definitely huge.”
Brown stressed that every since the loss at Belmont Jan. 13 that the team has been working to improve with the ultimate goal of an NCAA berth still in front of them.
“We have been battling and trying to get better every day since the last Belmont game as lead up to March,” Brown said. “You have to credit our coaches and our players for what we have done.”
Brown has scored in double figures in two of his last four games. With so much defensive attention on Hodzic and guards Josh Slater and Jordan Burgason having Brown consistently step up offensively could be a big key to the rest of the season.
“Coach Sanderson has told me all year that if a team doesn’t respect me I have to punish them on the backboards like I tried to do against Belmont. I just wanted to bring some energy.”
Also in double figures for the Bisons were Burgason with 17 points and Slater with 10.
Guard Drew Hanlen led Belmont in scoring with 12 points. Forward Jon House added 11 and Blake Jenkins chipped in with 10.
The Bisons shot 48.1 percent from the field while holding Belmont to 39.7 percent.
On the boards the Bisons held a 40-32 advantage. They hit 17-of-26 free throws. Belmont only had seven free throw attempts for the game, hitting five.
The Bisons are back in action at home Friday when Stetson visits Allen Arena for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.