Lipscomb guard Jacob Arnett did not waste the first start of his career.
Sunday afternoon at Allen Arena Arnett scored 13 points and hauled in six rebounds, both career highs. He also held Ben Smith, the Atlantic Sun Preseason Player of the year, to only 12 points as the Bisons beat Jacksonville 79-61.
The Bisons take over a share of first place with the win at Allen Arena. The Bisons are tied with Belmont at10-5 in the Atlantic Sun. Belmont beat North Florida 70-56 Sunday.
Jacksonville drops to 9-5 in the conference, 13-10 overall.
It was the lowest points total for Smith in an A-Sun game this season and was almost eight points below his season average.
“Jacob is a bigger, stronger kid,” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “He can defend. He is one of our better guards in the zone at the top. He is very, very active. He can take a hit.
“He is a very good driver. They were getting to the shooters and it opened the lane for him to drive the ball to the basket."
The Bisons spent only 40 minutes in practice Saturday in preparation for the game, but it was often an intense time on the court.
“We got after it in practice and it got very heated,” Sanderson said. “Sometimes it has to get heated to flush things out of our system. We responded well.
“Somehow I had to get my point across about having a sense of urgency on the floor. I thought some guys stepped up and played very, very well.”
Arnett was one of the players who shouldered a large portion of the criticism handed out by Sanderson in the wake of the frustration of Friday night’s 72-70 loss to North Florida.
“Jacob gave us a big, big lift on both ends of the court,” Sanderson said. “I got after him extremely hard Saturday. To his credit he responded.”
Sanderson always stresses defense first and that is what earned Arnett the starting nod.
“I started him because we needed defense,” Sanderson said. “We were getting beat because of our defensive efforts. That’s one of the reasons I also started Brandon Brown.
“Sometimes you go on feel in deciding to start someone. It turned out to be golden for us this time.”
Sanderson got the overall team effort he has been wanting from the Bisons on both ends of the court. Eight different players scored as the Bisons shot 46 percent from the field, 29-of-63.
Defensively, the Bisons held Jacksonville to 36.9 percent shooting from the field.
“Josh Slater and Adnan Hodzic played their normal games,” Sanderson said. “But I thought Zach Brown made some big plays in the second half. Michael Teller came in and played well. Jacob gave us a big lift as a starter.
“We have to maintain that intensity defensively. Holding Jacksonville to 36 percent was a big effort on our part.”
Sanderson stopped short of calling it the best game of the season for the Bisons.
“It’s one of our better games,” Sanderson said. “I thought we played awfully well down at North Florida (a 79-55 win Jan. 16).”
The Bisons allowed the Dolphins to pull within four, 41-37, 51 seconds in the second half. But this game did not develop into another in a series of last second nail-biters for the Bisons as they maintained a double-figure lead for the final seven minutes.
But the Bisons regained the momentum, leading by 12 on four different occasions. The Bisons never trailed in the second half.
With 6:54 left in the game Arnett scored on a layup and was fouled. He then sank his free throw to give the Bisons a 19-point lead, 68-49, with 6:54 left to play.
The biggest lead for the Bisons was 21 points, 73-52, with 3:38 left.
“It seems like last year since we have had a double-digit lead in a game,” Sanderson said. “They have all been coming down to the last possession.
“Every time Jacksonville came back we responded with a big steal, a big stop or a big layup. It was a very good team effort by everybody.”
The Bisons set the stage for the win in the first half.
Jacksonville led for most of the way in the first 10 minutes.
With Jacksonville leading 19-16 with 9:49 left in the first half the Bisons went on an 8-0 run, sparked by Hodzic, to take a 24-19 lead with 7:34 remaining.
With five minutes left in the half the Bisons led 26-23. They went on a 9-0 run, with Slater leading the way, to take a 35-23 lead, their biggest of the game, with 3:19 remaining.
Jacksonville kept chipping away in the first half, pulling to within four on a 3-point shot by Lehmon Colbert with 58 seconds on the clock.
Arnett connected on a layup with 40 seconds left to give the Bisons a 39-33 halftime lead.
Arnett scored the first field goal of both the first and second halves.
With 10:51 left to play in the game Slater joined the 1,000-point club for the Bisons.
Slater and Hodzic each tied for the game-high in scoring with 21 points apiece.
Hodzic extended his streak of double figure scoring performances to 51 straight games, the longest active streak in the country. He also grabbed 11 rebounds for his fifth straight game in double-doubles.
Zach Brown scored nine points, a career high for him as well.
Smith led the Dolphins in scoring. Colbert added 10. He led the Dolphins in rebounding with nine.
The Bisons play their next three games on the road starting Thursday, Feb. 11, at USC Upstate.
By Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations