Feb. 23, 2008
She didn't take a shot. She didn't grab a single rebound. She had trouble simply walking across court from the dressing room to the team bench.
Lipscomb Lady Bisons coach Frank Bennett doesn't name a Most Valuable Player at the end of the season. But junior post player Rachel Davis could easily be given the MVP award for Saturday night's 68-52 victory over the Belmont Lady Bruins at the Curb Center.
"During our pre-game devotional Rachel talked about how much she would give to be able to play now that she is out for the year," Bennett said. "She was willing to give up a lot of things that are pretty precious to be able to play. I think that was a motivational thing for us."
The win ended a five-game losing streak for the Lady Bisons. It was only their second win against Belmont in 11 outings since Lipscomb joined the A-Sun. It was also the first time the Lady Bisons have won a game in the Curb Event Center.
The Lady Bisons got a major lift early from junior forward Kaleigh Gossman who scored the first eight points. After getting her first shot blocked she connected on a shot from the free throw line, two lay-ups and a two-foot shot to give the Lady Bisons an 8-7 lead with 13:18 left in the half.
"With Rachel and Cree Nix not being able to play I felt some pressure on myself to produce," Gossman said.
Gossman also set a tone for the game before the opening tip-off, telling her teammates to smile on the court. The Lady Bisons listened to her. They played what was probably their most emotional game of the season.
"They just relaxed and played," said Bennett. "They were having fun. They did a nice job.
"It's really easy to play too tight because you want it so bad. That was not the case. We got off to a good start. We continued to play consistently."
The Lady Bisons did not relinquish the lead the rest of the way. Belmont pulled within four (21-17) with 2:25 left on the clock in the first half. The Lady Bisons countered with a 10-1 run to close out the first half, taking a 31-18 lead into the dressing room.
In the second half the Lady Bisons did not let up. Freshman guard Jenna Bartsokas hit a 3-point shot on the Lady Bisons first possession for a 16-point lead (34-18), their largest of the game.
The Lady Bisons kept a double-figures advantage the majority of the second half. Belmont cut the lead to seven points (57-50) with 3:26 left to play on a 10-foot jumper by center Brooke Sunday.
"What I really liked was every time they made a run at us in the second half we had answers with an offensive play on our end or a stop when we needed it," Bennett said. "We played a very smart game."
At 10:58 freshman forward Valerie Bronson hit a lay-up for the Lady Bisons for a 47-31 bulge, tying their biggest lead of the game.
"Valerie is good one-on-one player," Bennett said. "She can go to the basket. She got some rebounds. She is playing a more solid defensive game."
Neither team shot a high percentage from the field with the Lady Bisons hitting 40.3 percent (25-of-62) from the field and 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from 3-point range. Belmont connected on 19-of-54 attempts for 35.2 percent.
"We didn't expect this at all," Bennett said. "Belmont is a good team. Fortunately, they weren't shooting the ball too well from the outside. It was a game with two good defensive teams.
"We changed our motion offense with the No. 4 player on the perimeter. Our players really liked that. Belmont knows all of our plays. It was good to be able to do something with motion. We did a nice job of finding people who were open."
Four Lady Bisons finished in double figures with Bartsokas leading the way with a game-high 16 followed by Bronson with 14, Jilian Partin with 12 and Gossman with 10.
The Lady Bisons held a 41-37 advantage on the boards with Bartsokas leading with seven and Gossman and junior center Katie Rollins each grabbing six.
Belmont was led by Sunday and center Jessica Bobbitt with 11 each. Shaunda Strayhorn added 10. Sunday grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double.
The key to game was turnovers. Belmont committed 18 while the Lady Bisons made only nine.
The Lady Bisons are 7-21 overall, 5-9 in the A-Sun.
Belmont fell to 13-14 overall, 7-7 in the conference.