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Bisons give Alabama a test that can't be measured in numbers

Friday, December 29, 2006

Dec. 29, 2006

Final Stats

GALLERY

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ Sometimes numbers can be misleading.

Sometimes numbers alone don't come close to telling the whole story.

For those who know only that the Lipscomb Bisons lost 80-58 Friday night on the road to the No. 8-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, the real story behind the numbers will never be known.

For 33 minutes the Bisons did what any team would like to do on the road. They controlled the tempo of the game, keeping the Crimson Tide from running wild up and down the court. The Crimson Tide reached its season average of 80 points a game.

Keeping the Bisons poised and under control was senior point guard Trey Williams. When he picked up his fourth foul the momentum took a major shift toward Alabama. When he left the game at 3:48 with his fifth foul the Crimson Tide completed its takeover.

Sanderson sold his team on slowing down the tempo. And in the process he came very close to taking home a special memento from his homecoming to the town where he was born and raised.

"Our guys played hard," Sanderson said. "They battled. We executed well. For 33 to 34 minutes they played with a lot of poise."

But in the final 7 ½ minutes things changed. The Crimson Tide went on a 26-8 run to ice the game.

It was the 14th straight win at Coleman Coliseum for the Crimson Tide, 12-1 for the season. The Bisons slipped to 8-5, closing out their non-conference portion of the schedule.

"Our record may not be as good as it has been in the past, but I think games like this will help us in our league," Sanderson said. "Alabama, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Evansville and Liberty were very difficult teams to play on the road. I think those games will pay dividends for us."

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried knows how close his team came to being upset. He ditched his sport coat early in the game and loosened his tie later. Even when his team started opening up its double-digit lead he looked like a man on the losing end of the score.

"They are good," Gottfried said. "They are small and quick. They can all score. We used a small line-up against them for much of the game, but in the second half we decided to go with our taller line-up. In the last seven minutes we played with more intensity."

The Bisons were led by guard Brian Fisk with 16 points and forward Eddie Ard with 15. Ard was three-for-three from the free throw line making him a perfect 16-of-16 at the line in his last two games.

But the most impressive performance was made by freshman forward Michael Teller who scored six points while grabbing a season, career and team-high six rebounds.

"Michael Teller is a guy who maximizes every ounce of his ability,' Sanderson said. "He does what you ask him to do."

One disappointment for Sanderson was the lack of production inside both in scoring and on the boards. The Bisons were out-rebounded 39-21.

"We have to have productive people in the paint," Sanderson said. "We have to get some baskets in there.

"Since August when we went to Canada to play one of our concerns has been our ability to rebound. We have to be tough and go get balls in traffic. We lost three or four loose balls against Alabama and you can't do that in a close game."

The Bisons shot 41.1 percent from the field hitting 23-of-56 attempts. They were 6-of-28 from 3-point range, a 28.6 percent success rate. They were four-of-seven from the free throw line,

Alabama was led by Mykal Riley with a game-high 21 points. Richard Hendrix had a double-double with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

They shot 50.9 percent from the field, hitting 27-of-53 tries. They hit 10-of-23 3-point shots, a 43.5 percent rate. They also hit 16-of-21 attempts from the free throw line, 76.2 percent.

The Bisons, 2-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference, have 16 regular season games left. They resume defending their A-Sun regular season championship Tuesday night on the road at Kennesaw State.