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Lipscomb (12-14, 7-8 A-Sun)
Kennesaw State (5-22, 2-12 A-Sun)
2/16/2014 | Kennesaw, Ga. (KSU Convocation Center) | Attendance: 713
Sunday, February 16, 2014
KENNESAW, Ga. – The Lipscomb men’s basketball team showed toughness and resiliency in a battle to get a 76-73 Atlantic Sun Conference road win at Kennesaw State Sunday afternoon.
The win was the Bisons league-leading eight road victory, and improved Lipscomb to 12-14 overall and 7-8 in the conference. The loss dropped KSU to 5-22 overall and 2-12 in the league.
“We came out the first five or six minutes and played great on both ends of the court,” Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said. “We had a lot of energy. It was just a great performance and Martin had a lot to do with that.
“That is what we desperately had to have. We had to kind of regroup and make things happen ourselves. Our guys responded and did just that.”
After failing to get in the scoring column Friday at Mercer, Martin Smith opened up the Sunday matinee with a 3-pointer and back-to-back buckets for five quick points. J.C. Hampton followed suit with a three of own to give the Bisons an 8-0 lead just two minutes into the action.
Martin Smith pushed the Bisons lead to 12 at 18-6 after draining a second trey at the 13:30 mark of the first half.
From there, it was a game of runs.
The Owls started to heat up, knocking down three from behind the arc for a 12-2 run over the next six minutes to cut Lipscomb’s lead to 20-18.
“Once that initial energy and burst left us, I thought we gave in to fatigue a little bit,” Alexander said. “We were asking some guys to play a lot of minutes during that stretch and we lost a little bit of our edge. That opened the door for Kennesaw to get back into it. But we did a great job of staying with it.”
Kennesaw State took its first lead at 23-22 on a 3-pointer from Delbert Love with 5:30 to play in the opening 20 minutes.
Talbott Denny responded 15 seconds later with a three of his own to put the Bisons back on top.
Lipscomb extended the lead and took a 35-30 advantage into intermission, getting all points from its starters.
Martin Smith scored 15 of his game-high 25 points in the first half on 6-of-9 shooting.
The second half belonged to stud freshman, Josh Williams.
The Jackson, Miss., native scored 15 of his 22 points on the day in the closing 20 minutes of play. He tied his career-high with nine rebounds and set a career-high with six assists.
“That is a pretty good stat line from Josh,” Alexander said. “He was a guy that continued to get it on his own, because we called his number very few times. When we didn’t have Malcolm and some different lineups, Josh did a nice job of putting us on his back and getting some buckets for us.
“But Martin deserves a lot of credit for getting us going. His 25 points were critical in this game, because we had to have some scoring.”
Williams scored five points early in the second half to give his team a seven-point lead at 42-35.
But KSU was not finished. The final 14 minutes was a back-and-forth affair, with the lead swapping hands five times.
A Love layup capped off a 7-0 run that gave the Owls a four-point lead and forced Alexander to call a timeout.
The young Bisons squad kept their calm and quickly regained the lead, 53-52, on another Williams’ three-ball.
Lipscomb built another double-digit lead and looked to put the game out of reach, but the Owls would not go away.
Cam Miller played a vital role in helping the Bisons control the lead down the stretch.
The freshman guard from Franklin, did not score, but snagged a career-high five rebounds and dished three assists.
“I am so thrilled and proud of Cam Miller for responding when his number has been called,” Alexander said. “Our coaches continuously say ‘Cam impacts practice as much as anybody on a daily basis.’ Tonight he got the minutes and performed great. And I want him out there at the end of the game. There is not anything much better than when a coach wants you out there in the end when it is anybody’s game to win.”
With the Bisons up eight with two minutes to play, Williams looked to put an exclamation point on an already impressive night with a thunderous dunk on a no-look pass from Carter Sanderson.
Unfortunately, the ball hit the back iron and flung high into the air and into the hands of Nigel Pruitt. Pruitt then was fouled on a three at the other end of the court and drained all three shots from the charity stripe to cut the Bisons lead to 75-70.
The Owls had a chance to make it a one-point game but Pruitt made just 1-of-2 at the line.
A Hampton free throw gave the Bisons a 76-73 lead with 19 seconds to play. The Owls got an open look at a game-tying 3-pointer, but touched nothing but air and Lipscomb escaped with the win.
For the game Lipscomb hit 23-of-50 from the floor for 46 percent and drained 11 long balls. Kennesaw State converted 22-of-54 field goals for 40.7 percent. The Owls also hit 11 threes.
The Bisons held a slight advantage at the line, sinking 19-of-26. KSU made 18-of-28.
After clinching a berth in the A-Sun Championship on Sunday, Lipscomb will now return to Nashville for its final three regular season contests, beginning with a 6 p.m. tip with Northern Kentucky Friday Feb. 21.
Alexander talks about the importance of getting the win Sunday before closing the season at home.
“It was huge for us because we haven’t played well in the last two games,” Alexander said. “The final score was much closer than we wanted it to be, but we found a way to win and that is what this team needed more than anything.”
“To bounce back from that and win a game on the road is extra sweet. It is nice now that we get to go home and finish out with three in Allen Arena and hopefully make our mark on the standings.”