Jan. 2, 2006
In a conference as competitive as the Atlantic Sun winning homes games is a necessity.
The Lipscomb Bisons celebrated the arrival of the New Year with a 70-58 victory over Gardner-Webb Monday afternoon, the preseason pick by both the coaches and the media to win the A-Sun regular season championship.
"You have to win your homes games and you have to play well on the road," said Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson. "We have a long way to go. But we have a road win against East Tennessee State giving us two wins against teams picked to win our conference."
With 18 straight conference games on the schedule Sanderson met with each player Friday to discuss the rest of the season.
"We talked with them individually about what they needed to do to help our team," said Sanderson. "Everyone stepped up big for us."
The Bisons quickly fell behind 4-0 prompting Sanderson to call for a 20-second time out at the 18:52 mark. Whatever he said worked as the Bisons, sparked by steals by Eddie Ard and Trey Williams, scored the next six points.
The first half would stay close with the Bisons twice leading by points at 12-7 at 15:26 and 16-11 at 9:56.
With 7:22 left in the half Gardner-Webb capped an 11-2 run with a jump shot by Tim Jennings to take a 22-18 lead. Gardner-Webb held its advantage until the 3:49 mark when Brian Fisk tied the game with a lay-up at 24-24. A 3-point shot by Ard put the Bisons ahead 27-24 with 1:40 left before intermission.
Brian Bender's lay-up at 1:25 cut the Bisons lead to 27-26 at 1:25. Neither team would score again before halftime.
Even though the Bisons held the lead, Sanderson found little to be happy about at halftime and addressed several issues with his players. One of his concerns was Gardner-Webb's 19-17 advantage on the boards.
"I was all over them like a bad habit," said Sanderson. "We had not been out-rebounded by a team all season."
The Bisons, boosted by 3-pointers from Ard and Fisk opened the second half with an 8-3 run in less than two minutes to take a 37-29 lead at 18:10.
Gardner-Webb would pull within one point of the lead three different times, but did not tie or lead the game in the second half. With 12:39 left in the game Chris Gash hit a pair of free throws for Gardner-Webb to trim the Bisons lead to 42-41.
The Bisons responded with an 11-1 run that gave them a 53-42 lead with 8:15 left.
As expected Gardner-Webb kept chipping away, pulling to within three points at 56-53 on a lay-up by Bender at 3:49.
This time the Bisons roared back with a 13-1 run to take a 69-54 lead, their largest of the game with 38 seconds remaining.
The Bisons shot 44.4 percent from the field. Fisk tied his season high in scoring with a game-high 22 points. He had previously scored 22 points in the 73-71 victory at Nicholls State. He was 7-of-14 from the field, 3-of-5 from 3-point range and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. Ard finished with 17 points.
"Brian came off screens and made some very, very tough shots," said Sanderson. "Brian is back in the groove right now and playing very well."
Sanderson, who expressed concern about his reserves following Thursday's 69-58 loss at Tennessee praised freshmen Kris Alpers and Michael Lusk and senior guard James Poindexter for their play off of the bench against Gardner-Webb.
"I was proud of our bench," said Sanderson. "James came in and made a couple of timely shots. Michael Lusk got a key tip-in. Kris Alpers scored four points in the first half. We got about 40-something minutes out of our bench.
"We only had one player play more than 30 minutes and that was Shaun who played 31 (Fisk played 30). The bench gave us fresher legs down the stretch where we have to execute. Brian doesn't make his points late in the game if he plays 36 minutes."
Four Gardner-Webb players finished in double figures with Bender, Simon Conn and Jennings each scoring 12 points. Gash added 11 off of the bench. Gardner-Webb shot 39.6 percent from the field, well below their average of 43.3 percent.
"Gardner-Webb is a very difficult team to defend in the half-court," said Sanderson. "Everyone of their guys can shoot the ball."
The Bisons are 6-5, 2-1 in the A-Sun. Gardner-Webb is 5-5, 2-1 in the A-Sun.
The Bisons have little time to celebrate. Campbell's Camels will visit Allen Arena Wednesday at 4 p.m. for an A-Sun game.
"Campbell is a very explosive team," said Sanderson. "I have the utmost respect for Campbell because of their effort and energy and play so hard. They didn't win a game in the league last year and the intensity they played at all that season was incredible."