A basketball team virtually disappears on both ends of the court for the first 20 minutes of a game, only to rebound in the final 20 minutes to not only win, but dominate.
It might sound like the basis of a good script for an episode of the old “Twilight Zone”, but Lipscomb Bisons coach Scott Sanderson is tired of trying to figure out the mystery. Even in the wake of Saturday night’s 105-68 win over Oakland City at Allen Arena Sanderson was frustrated over his team’s performance in the first 20 minutes.
“Oakland City was 8-of-11 from 3-point range in the first half,” said Sanderson. “Right now, the basket in the first half so far for nine teams has been as big as the ocean.
“We haven’t played very well in the first half. We have to get that corrected.”
Sanderson likes the fact that his team is able to change gears in the final 20 minutes both offensively and defensively, but he wishes it didn’t take them 20 minutes to get out of neutral and into high gear.
“We have been very strong in the second half, but I would like not to be so bad in the first half,” said Sanderson. “On both ends of the floor we have to be more efficient in the first half.
“We have yet to play a 40-minute game. I told the team I might just come to watch the second half. It is difficult to watch. An average fan can see the ability level we potentially have. Trying to get that figured out in the first half is going to be critical for us as we go deeper into the season.”
The Bisons led 49-41 at the half, the first time this season they have held the advantage after the first 20 minutes. But the Mighty Oaks trimmed that lead to 51-50 in the first four minutes of the second half. A little over three minutes into the second half, with the Bisons ahead by three, Sanderson replaced all five of his starters.
With the new players in place the Bisons went on a 20-2 run to take over control of the game at 71-52.
“It was nothing Oakland City was doing,” said Sanderson. “It was our lack of energy and lack of effort defensively. Oakland City was getting every loose ball and every rebound.”
Offensively, the Bisons continue to produce. Junior center Adnan Hodzic scored 25 points, one short of his season high. He has scored in double figures in 36 straight games, the longest streak in the nation.
Also in double figures were sophomore guard Jordan Burgason with 14 points and junior forward Brandon Brown with 12. The Bisons shot 56.9 percent from the field, including 11-of-22 from 3-point range.
“We’re shooting the ball well,” said Sanderson. “We have to get off to a quick start defensively. We have to have the mindset to guard people. We have to set the tone defensively and we are 0-9 for setting the tone defensively.
“We have to stop giving the other team open looks. Oakland City got too many open looks. And the ball moved too freely. We have to stop the ball from moving quite so much.”
Sophomore Justin Glenn hauled down a game-high and season-high eight rebounds. He also blocked a shot in 13 minutes of play.
“Justin can rebound the ball and block shots,” said Sanderson. “He is a big, long kid. He just has to continue to get better in practice.”
Sanderson played 11 players for 10 minutes or more in the game. He wants to see a more assertive effort from his bench players. In addition to Glenn, Sanderson also liked what he saw from redshirt-freshman guard Jacob Arnett and freshman center Milos Kleut against Oakland City.
“I told the bench guys that if they don’t like how much they are playing then they have to make the most of their time when they are on the floor. I want them to make my decisions difficult when I decide who to play.”
The Bisons will practice Sunday and then mix in practice sessions with final exams. The exam period ends Thursday, Dec. 17. Saturday, Dec. 19, the Bisons will be on the road at Cincinnati. They close out the pre-Christmas schedule with a Dec. 21 visit to Tucson to take on Arizona.
“Cincinnati is a top 20 team and Arizona is historically a great program,” said Sanderson. “We have gotten better. We still have things to work on. We have two more opportunities to improve ourselves.”
With the dawning of the New Year the Bisons hit the ground running with an Atlantic Sun home game with Stetson Jan. 2.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Writer/Director of Media Relations