Dec. 29, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. _ As Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl made the usual pregame handshakes with the visiting team he told Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson how good he thought the Bisons were.
For much of Thursday night the Bisons did what they could to prove Pearl's assessment was correct. But too many fouls, too many minutes for many of the starters and not enough help off of the bench contributed to a 69-58 loss by the Bisons to the Volunteers in front of an announced crowd of 15,967 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"Lipscomb is a well-coached basketball team," said Pearl. "They were very well prepared after having 10 days to get ready for us.
"I knew it was going to be a low-scoring game because that is how Lipscomb plays. They wore us out a little bit guarding them."
Tennessee improved to 8-1 with the win. The Bisons, playing their third Southeastern Conference opponent of the season, are 5-5 headed into a Jan. 2 meeting with Gardner-Webb at 4 p.m. at Allen Arena, the first of 18 straight Atlantic Sun Conference games.
One thing Sanderson hopes to find between now and then is some consistent help from his reserves.
The Bisons showed a great deal of heart and grit in front of a hostile sea of orange. Down 11-2 with 13:52 left in the first half they went on a 13-3 run sparked by 3-pointers from guards James Poindexter and Trey Williams and forward Eddie Ard to take a 15-14 lead at 10:18.
The lead would change hands three times in the final 10 minutes of the first half. A pair of free throws by C.J. Watson with 11 seconds left gave the Volunteers a 27-26 lead at intermission.
"I thought we were pretty good defensively in the first half," said Sanderson. "We let our defense work,"
The second half was very similar to the first in the opening minutes with the Volunteers going on a 10-2 run in the first three minutes. Lipscomb guard Brian Fisk shot a 3-pointer from the corner at 16:11 cut the Tennessee lead to 37-31.
Four straight free throws made by Ard and a jumper from Fisk in the lane pulled the Bisons to within two points at 39-37 with 14:17 remaining. The Bisons would not get that close to the Volunteers the rest of the game.
With 10 minutes left to play Sanderson knew his Bisons were too fatigued to do what was necessary to rally.
"I told our coaches at the 10-minute mark we were too tired to get over the hump," said Sanderson. "We didn't get enough bench help. Our starters played way too many minutes."
The Volunteers opened up an 11-point lead, their biggest of the game with 57 seconds left to play on a pair of free throws by Dane Bradshaw to make it 67-56.
Both Williams and center Shaun Durant were hampered by foul troubles. Durant was hit with his fourth foul with 13:58 left to play. He was whistled for his fifth foul with two minutes remaining. Williams got his fourth foul at 13:56. He left the game with his fifth foul with 3:05 left.
"When Trey Williams goes out we hurt," said Sanderson. "We need him on the floor playing a lot of minutes. We can run a lot of things with him. We flow better offensively when he is in the game. We have not solidified our back-uo point guard spot.
Durant, the team-leader and Atlantic Sun Conference leader in rebounds, finished with six, but managed only two points, well below his average of 10.7 heading into the game.
"Shaun Durant is a warrior," said Sanderson. "Their big guys had size and length on him a little bit. Most nights he is going to very, very solid."
Their losses were magnified by the need for Fisk to leave the game with 1:37 left due to a cut that was bleeding on his upper lip.
The Bisons shot 35.7 percent from the floor with Ard scoring 24 points which were a game-high, a season-high and a career-high. Fisk added 19.
"Eddie has to be disciplined and take the shots when they are there," said Sanderson. "Even in the first half, when he was on a roll, he took a couple of bad shots. But he is very capable of getting on a roll."
On the boards the Bisons more than held their own hauling down 43 compared to 33 by Tennessee. Lipscomb forward Cameron Robinson pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
Tennessee shot 38.2 percent from the field. Watson led the Volunteers with 18 points, 13 of them from the free throw line. Major Wingate added 13 and Stanley Asumnu chipped in 11.
The most interesting aspect of the Volunteers offense was the fact that Chris Lofton, who came into the game averaging a team-leading 18.4 points scored only six against the Bisons with no points in the second half.
"Chris Lofton made those two shots early," said Pearl. "Lipscomb did a good job of switching out on him. Chris did not do a good job of getting open."
But as Sanderson feared turnovers were a problem. After committing only five in the first half they made 16 miscues in the second.
"We turned it over nine times in the first 10 minutes of the second half," said Sanderson. "There is no defense for turnovers on the perimeter. If they want to run their half-court offense against our half-court defense, I will take our chances. But if we turn the ball over on the perimeter we can not defend against that."