When Lipscomb basketball coach Scott Sanderson put together his schedule, he knew this year’s would be the toughest during his 11 years at Lipscomb and the difficult schedule would make his team better prepared for Atlantic Sun conference games.
“It’s not about who we are playing, but rather getting us ready for conference play,” Sanderson said. “We made our schedule difficult on purpose.”
While Sanderson’s Bisons will face an uphill battle Tuesday night when they tip off against No. 17-ranked Ohio State at 6 p.m. (CT), the game will be a step in the learning and growing process as the Bisons look towards their eventual goal of winning the A-Sun tournament and advancing to the “Big Dance” in March.
“You have to look at the big picture,” Sanderson said. “The big picture is trying to get ready for our league.”
Lipscomb lost its first three games to start the 2009-10 campaign giving up over 90 points in each. The Bisons have been known for their defense in previous years and are 1-14 when giving up 90 or more points over the last seven seasons.
Ohio State (3-1) is scoring 98 points per game this year and is led by Evan Turner who is scoring 21.8 points and grabbing 14.8 boards per contest.
Following the graduation of guard Michael Lusk, junior Brandon Brown has received the task of guarding the opponent’s top player.
“He’s scored a lot for us this year, but we need his defensive intensity,” Sanderson said. “We need his defensive understanding. He will guard a variety of people in our league. He’ll guard small point guards and he’ll guard long wing players. As good as he’s been he can still be better. We definitely need him to step up on the defensive end.”
With early season home losses to Elon and Tennessee Tech, Sanderson is working to teach his squad to learn from their mistakes with conference play beginning Dec. 3 at Mercer.
“Have we had some losses at home that we are displeased with? Absolutely,” Sanderson said. “We had three really good days of practice since Thursday. Our guys really responded. You learn from your mistakes and we have gotten better in the last three days of practice.”
Last year A-Sun foe Jacksonville lost its first seven non-conference games including an 81-68 loss at Ohio State on Dec. 17. Jacksonville went on to go 15-5 in conference play and won the A-Sun regular season title.
One big bright spot for Lipscomb against Tennessee Tech was the play of freshman point guard Zach Brown. Brown scored two points and had three assists, a block and a steal while turning the ball over once.
“He played very well Thursday,” Sanderson said. “He has a very good understanding of what we are trying to do and hopefully that will give him confidence to build on.”
Senior point guard Johnny Lee, who transferred to Lipscomb after graduating from George Washington last spring, did not see any action against Tennessee Tech after struggling to control the ball and defend in the Bisons first two games.
“I think Johnny Lee has come to an understanding of what I want him to do,” Sanderson said. “It was not predetermined for him not to play. But, I think he has a much better and clearer understanding of what I want him to do on both ends of the floor. We have seen that in practice the last three days and hopefully that will convert into a good performance by him in Tuesday’s game.”
Junior center Adnan Hodzic has continued to dominate the low post for the Bisons. He is averaging a league-leading 22.7 points per game. The preseason All-Conference selection is shooting 63.8 percent from the field and continues to improve his offensive game, but a key for Lipscomb will be his ability to continue improving on the defensive side too.
“Hopefully he will continue to get better defensively in that low post,” Sanderson said. “We need his defensive presence down there. He’s been very consistent on the offensive end but he needs to be better on the defensive end.”
Junior guard Josh Slater has played with an extremely high intensity level for the Bisons this year. He is averaging 18.7 points per game and leads the A-Sun averaging 6.5 assists per contest. Slater is fifth in the A-Sun in rebounding (8.3) and third in steals (2.67) per game.
“He’s played very well on both ends of the floor and he’s tough and hardnosed,” Sanderson said. “He plays good in these types of games. He’s been a good player for us and hopefully he will continue to play that way for us.”
Sanderson plans on running a steady mixture of plays and defenses to keep Ohio State on their toes.
“We are going to constantly have to mix it up,” Sanderson said. “We can’t give them a steady diet of anything. To the best of our ability we have to keep them off balance since they are so explosive and can beat you off the dribble.”
No matter what the scoreboard reads after 40 minutes of play, Sanderson hopes his team grows and progresses towards reaching their season-long goals.
“The big picture is trying to get ready for our league and this is another opportunity for us to play a great basketball team on Tuesday night.”
Lipscomb fans are invited to a pre-game pep rally at The Columbus Renaissance Hotel beginning at 4:15 p.m. (ET)
The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. For Comcast customers in Nashville, the game will be shown on channel 266. To locate the channel in your area, please visit http://bigten.channelfinder.net/start.asp.
Jonathan Seamon, Benjamin Seamon, and Justin Seamon will be on the call for the Lipscomb Sports Network. Free online audio streaming is available at www.LipscombSports.com/sportsnetwork/.