March 2, 2006
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. _ The first round jitters are over for the Lipscomb Bisons.
Playing in their second straight Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament the Bisons moved to the semifinals Thursday afternoon with a 78-62 win over the No. 8-seeded Mercer Bears at the Memorial Center on the campus of East Tennessee State. The Bisons will play Gardner-Webb, a 64-63 come-from-behind winner over host ETSU Friday night, in the semifinals at 6 p.m. CST.
"It was a great team win," said Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson. "I thought our kids were zoned in. I always think that the first game in a tournament setting is the most difficult game, especially offensively."
The Memorial Center was once the indoor football facility for ETSU. The placement of the floor has given most teams a problem in terms of depth perception.
"We were working on post-perimeter shooting in here Wednesda afternoon and we missed our first 20 shots," said Sanderson. "They started looking at me and I told them to drive it to the hole.
"The depth perception is a little bit different, but everybody has to shoot on these goals. We haven't talked much about it, but a gym like this favors the defense."
The Bisons were no exception with only four points in the first three minutes and only six in the first five.
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm in a first half that featured seven ties. Both teams managed to rally to hit more than 40 percent of their shots in the half.
"We talked about it before the game that someone (lower seed) beats a higher seed," said Sanderson. "We just didn't want that somebody to be us."With the scored tied at 19-19 with 5:35 left in the half, Brian Fisk and Eddie Ard hit back-to-back 3-point shots to spark a 30-11 scoring rally for the Bisons that continued into the second half.
Once against defense was the key for the Bisons as they beat Mercer for the third time this season.
"We spend three-fourths of our time defending people in practice," said Sanderson. "To their credit our guys have bought into it. And that is a toughness issue.
"I told them before the game that I hope we make shots. But if we don't make shots let's at least do things we are capable of doing and that is the effort things like defending people and rebounding. Our focus is on that end of the floor and it has helped us big time this year."
The Bisons lost the battle on the boards in the first half with Mercer holding a 16-13 edge. The Bisons made up for the deficit in the second half for a 33-28 rebounding edge.
Turnovers were also a key with the Bisons committing only nine. Mercer made 17 miscues.
"Turnovers are a big thing for us," said Sanderson. "If we don't turn the ball over people have to play against our half-court defense. We can't aid people by turning the ball over and having them get cheap baskets on us."
Sophomore guard LaKory Daniels was also in double figures scoring a season-high 10 points.
"LaKory made some big shots for us," said Sanderson. "He is a guy who has been out for a year-and-a-half. He hasn't played a whole lot. He is just getting his confidence back where he can drop shots. The more confidence he gets, the more confidence I have in him."
Daniels, a transfer from the University of Alabama, as enjoyed his season with the Bisons, even with the challenges he has faced from an injury to learning a new system.
"This has been a joyous season for me," said Daniels. "I've found a home here. The coaches kept on telling me to work hard and that it would all come together. Hopefully, now I have turned it around."
Sanderson points to Daniels attitude this season as consistent with the team approach.
"To his credit, and to his mom and dad's credit, if he played two minutes or 12 minutes they looked at me and they responded to me the same way," said Sanderson. "That is the way our whole team has been this year.
"I have told people a many times that LaKory is going to burst on the scene a lot like Eddie Ard did last year," said Sanderson. "He is getting better and better. LaKory is all about putting our team first."
Mercer placed two players in double figures with Andrew Brown scoring 12 points and Brian Pfohl adding 10.