The free throw line was the life line for the Lipscomb Bisons.
Seeking both a sweep of Belmont for the season, and to stop a two-game skid, the Bisons hit 26-of-28 free throws on the way to a 78-72 win at the Curb Event Center Tuesday night. The Bisons beat Belmont 64-53 at Allen Arena Jan. 11.
Guard Jacob Arnett hit four-of-four from the line in the final 30 seconds and center Adnan Hodzic added a pair with four seconds remaining to ice the game for the Bisons. He has hit 17-of-19 free throws this season.
Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson has stressed that all Arnett, a redshirt freshman, needs is to get more game experience.
Arnett made three of his four turnovers in the first half, but he grabbed five rebounds in addition to sinking the key free throws.
“Jacob really had never been in this type of environment,” Sanderson said. “He had several turnovers in the first half. For him to step up in that situation and make four free throws was critical for us. We needed every one of them. He just needs more time on the floor to feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, he has to try to get comfortable in this type of environment.”
“He has only missed two free throws for the year. It wasn’t that we were surprised that he made them. He has made them all year long. He just hasn’t shot that many of them.
Guard Josh Slater scored a game-high 26 points with 12 coming on free throws. Hodzic added 25 with seven points on free throws.
Twenty-six seconds into the game the Bisons lost senior guard Johnny Lee with a lower leg injury. He did not return to the game.
“We have lost two starters now,” Sanderson said. “We need some bench guys to step up whether it is free throws, defense or rebounds.”
One of the players stepping up to take Lee’s place was freshman guard Zach Brown who played 15 minutes on the point with four points and two steals.
“Those 15 minutes were critical,” Sanderson said. “I was very proud of how Zach played in that kind of environment. Zach hasn’t played a whole lot but he doesn’t turn the ball over and he gets four points.
“When Johnny went down I immediately knew I was going to put Zach in the game at the point guard spot. I want to keep Josh off the point as much as I can, at least early in the game. Zach is very smart. He knows where I want the ball to go. He is going to have to get better then next few days in practice. He is going to have to fill in for us.”
The Bisons trailed 32-31 at the half. They twice took the lead in the early going, but could not maintain the advantage.
The biggest lead for the Bruins was 13 points, when Keaton Belcher scored on a lay-up for a 52-39 edge with 12:30 left to play. Slater started a rally of his own with 12:12 left to play. First he hit three free throws after being fouled as he attempted a 3-point shot. He followed that up with a lay-up at 11:35 to cut the Belmont lead to 52-44.
‘We drove the ball to the hole,” said Sanderson. “We executed our plays getting the ball to Adnan down low.”
Forward Michael Teller, who scored 14 points in the game, connected on a 3-pointer at 10:49 to pull the Bisons within five points, 52-47.
Hodzic scored on a lay-up at 9:53 to pull the Bisons within three at 52-49.
Slater extended the run to 9-0 when he hit a free throw to trim the Belmont lead to 52-50.
Belmont answered with a 3-point shot for a 55-50 lead.
Guard Jordan Burgason sank two free throws at 9:08 to make it 55-52.
The Bisons stayed close with Teller connecting on a 3-point shot from the corner with 6:05 remaining to cut Belmont's lead to one, 62-61.
The Bruins answered with a 3-point shot, but Hodzic scored on a jump hook in the lane on the next possession to keep the Bisons close, 65-63 with 5:31 on the clock.
With 3:57 left Slater once again went to the line and sank a pair of free throws to keep the Bisons within two at 67-65.
Hodzic scored in the lane at 2:43 as Belmont stayed ahead 69-67.
At 2:11 the Bisons were once again down by four, 71-67. Hodzic scored again to make it a 71-69 Belmont advantage. Hodzic sank a pair of free throws at 1:26 to tie the game at 71-71.
Forward Brian Wright pulled down a rebound on Belmont's next possession to set up the Bisons with a chance to pull into the lead with one minute remaining. Hodzic hit the front end, but missed the second shot as the Bisons pulled ahead 72-71 with 49 seconds left.
Turnovers were a problem for the Bisons in the first half as they committed 10 with Belmont scoring 16 points off of those miscues. For the game the Bisons turned the ball over 17 times.
The Bisons held the advantage on the boards hauling down 36. Belmont had 28 rebounds. Hodzic led the way with a game-high 12.
Slater and Hodzic kept the Bisons in the game in the first 20 minutes with 10 points each. Hodzic has scored in double figures In 47 straight games.
Belmont placed two players in double figures. Guard Ian Clark led with 18. Forward Keaton Belcher added 17.
“It’s just one game, but we desperately needed it,” Sanderson said. “I was just proud of how our guys came back when we down 53-39. They dug their heels in and went on a 10-0 run. I was proud of their effort. It was a good win for us.”
The Bisons are 10-10, 7-4 in the A-Sun. Belmont falls to 11-10, 6-5 in the conference. The Bisons are on the road Saturday at ETSU for a 3 p.m. game.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/ Director of Media Relations