In their last three games the Lipscomb Bisons have seen firsthand exactly what it means. They have watched games go down to the last possession and last second, winning two and losing one during that stretch.
Sunday afternoon at 1 the Jacksonville Dolphins, 13-9, 9-4, visit Allen Arena. The Dolphins, at the top of the Atlantic Sun standings, are a half-game ahead of the Bisons and Belmont. The Bisons are 12-11 overall, 9-5 in the A-Sun.
Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson wouldn't be surprised to see this game, pitting the two preseason favorites to win the regular season conference title, go down to the wire as well. The Bisons fell to Jacksonville 79-73 on the road Jan. 14.
“I put on the board before the North Florida game that every possession counts,” Sanderson said. “If each player thinks about every possession each one is involved in, good or bad, and cuts down on two or three of the bad ones each, it is a different outcome.
“Every possession at the beginning of the game is just as important as each possession at the end. But the possessions at the end of the game are magnified because they are at the end of the game.”
The Bisons only spent 40 minutes on the court Saturday. Sanderson was encouraged by the way his team practiced in the wake of Friday night’s 72-70 last second loss to North Florida. Sanderson is worried that his players, who let a disappointing loss to ETSU carry over into a loss to Campbell in the next game, might repeat that mistake. But he sensed a different attitude from his players during Saturday’s practice.
“We have to get it flushed out of our system as much as we possibly can,” Sanderson said. “There was a different feel to it. I don’t know what that means.
“But there was definitely a different sense of urgency about the process and the things we need to do that affect winning and losing. They completely understand why they lost to North Florida.”
The team make-up has shifted slightly with the return of forward Brandon Brown after a nine-game absence due to a shoulder injury. He scored 10 points against North Florida and averages 12.4 points per game.
Guard Josh Slater is averaging 17.1 points and guard Jordan Burgason is averaging 12.6.
Zach Brown has been thrust into a major role at point guard with senior Johnny Lee out with an ACL injury. Slater can play the point position as well, but Sanderson prefers him to be at the No. 2 guard spot as much as possible.
Hodzic leads the Atlantic Sun in scoring with 21.7 points per game, 13th best in the nation. He is fourth in the conference in rebounding with 8.3 per game.
Zach Brown, a freshman, is averaging slightly less than 20 minutes (19.7) a game since Lee’s injury at Belmont Jan. 11.
“Zach has to give us more on both ends of the floor,” Sanderson said. “He doesn’t make huge mistakes, but he has to get more production of out his minutes played.
“Adnan Hodzic does touch the ball more when Zach plays. He has to finish plays around the basket.”
Sanderson rates Jacksonville and ETSU as the most athletic teams in the conference. The Dolphins are led by point guard Ben Smith with 19.7 points per game and forward Lehmon Colbert with 12 points a game. Colbert also leads Jacksonville in rebounds with 6.6.
Jacksonville lost 73-70 Friday night at Belmont.
“Jacksonville is long and athletic,” Sanderson said. “Smith and Colbert have really stepped their play up. They play eight or nine guys.
“Our players know what is at stake. But they knew that against North Florida and we didn’t do the things necessary to give us a chance to win. It should be a big game for both teams.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations