March 4, 2006
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. _ The NCAA dream is no more, but the season is not over for the Lipscomb Bisons basketball team.
As the regular season Atlantic Sun Conference co-champion and the No. 1 tournament seed the Bisons get an automatic invitation to the National Invitation Tournament.
"We have talked absolutely zero about the NIT," said Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson. "We have not addressed it at all. It is going to take us a day or so to come to grips with what is going on.
"I'm excited about the NIT. I think it is a great reward for winning the A-Sun Championship and being the No. 1 seed. I think it is a great reward for a team that has given me their hearts and souls since September."
The trip back to Nashville late Saturday afternoon was somber one as the Bisons lost 74-69 in overtime to the No.2-seeded Belmont Bruins. It was the second overtime game this season between the two teams, the Bisons won the first one 97-85 on Jan. 20. It was also the first overtime game in an Atlantic Sun Conference championship game since the 1988 season.
"In overtime at our place we won going away a couple of months ago," said Sanderson. "They got two quick baskets on us in overtime and went up by four We tied it again, but they made the plays that we necessary to win down the stretch."
The two teams battled to a dead heat in the first half with the scored knotted 31-31 on a 3-point shot at the buzzer by Bisons guard LaKory Daniels.
The Bisons trailed by 10 points, 16-6 with 13:41 left before intermission. They worked their way back into contention as Daniels and forward Eddie Ard combined for 22 first half points.
In the second half the Bisons took the lead 33-31 on a lay-up by guard Brian Fisk on the first play. The Bisons maintained a lead until 13:51 when a 3-pointer by Belmont's Josh Goodwin put them ahead 43-41.
They don't call these meetings "Battles of the Boulevard" for nothing. And even though the game was being played almost six hours east of Nashville, the intensity was just as strong with the NCAA berth on the line.
The Bisons took over the lead at 45-43 with 10:09 left in regulation on a jumper by Ard. They would lead by as many as six points on a couple of occasions before a lay-up by tournament MVP Justin Hare put Belmont back on top 55-53.
With 29 seconds left the Bisons pulled ahead by three points at 58-55 on a 3-point shot by guard James Poindexter. Belmont answered with a jumper from Hare who was fouled on the play and then sank the free throw to knot the game with 20 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Belmont scored first in overtime and never gave the lead back.
Ard, who led the Bisons with 19 points, was named to the All-Tournament Team. Daniels, who set new season highs with each tournament game including 13 against Belmont, also was an All-Tournament pick. Also scoring on double figures was Poindexter with 13.
"This was an up and down game and we couldn't pull it out," said Daniels. "They made big plays. We couldn't get over the hump."
Hare led Belmont with 32 points. Josh Goodwin, Brian Collins and Andrew Preston each had 10 points apiece for Belmont.
Belmont shot 50 percent from the field. The Bisons shot 35.6 percent.
Belmont turned the ball over 16 times. The Bisons made 15 turnovers after committing only 16 combined in their first two tournament games.
The Bisons, 21-9, will be informed of their first round NIT opponent March 12.
"We think going to the NIT is going to be exciting for us and for our fans," said Sanderson. "We are going to postseason play for the first time ever in only our second season of eligibility.
"Our guys are very resilient. They will bounce back and be very focused in practice. We will be ready to play."