That will change Wednesday at 6 when the Lady Bisons (6-23), the No. 7 seed, tip-off against Jacksonville (17-12) at 6 in Allen Arena in the opening game of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
“Jacksonville is a very good team,” said Lipscomb coach Frank Bennett. “It is going to be a challenge.
The Lady Bisons lost both games between the two teams this season. On Dec. 6 in Jacksonville the Lady Bisons dropped a 63-57 decision. The two teams met Feb. 26 here at Allen Arena, a 71-42 loss for the Lady Bisons.
“Jacksonville has a lot of speed,” said Bennett. “You don’t want them to get into a running game and make easy baskets. They really hurt us with their transition game in the second half the last time we played them. Secondly is rebounding. We have to focus on blocking out and everybody getting on the boards.”
Despite the struggles in that game, Bennett thinks his team will be ready for the challenge of playing Jacksonville again in such a short time span. “A lot of people ask me why I want to play them because we got beat soundly the last time,” said Bennett. “We have some areas we can improve on. We have identified areas where we had breakdowns that we hope we can correct. We are looking forward to the chance to play them again.
“There is the saying in basketball that it is hard to beat a team three times in a season. So we have that going into the game. We had a close game with them in Jacksonville. We were almost even with two minutes left to play. We feel like we can play with them.”
The tournament will be a showcase for the Lady Bisons freshmen. Guard Anna Bowers has started the last 16 games and center Clair Waggener has started 19. Both guard Chelsea Burroughs (21 games) and forward Brittany Duerk (28 games) have played significant minutes in a reserve role.
“Anna has made real strides,” said Bennett. “She has built up stamina. She has become a better defender. I thought she would be a good 3-point shooter. She struggled early, but his a good percentage in the second half of conference play.
“Burroughs has also come along in the second half of conference play. She is our best 3-point shooter at 40 percent. She gives us a spark with her scoring and also with the fact that she will dive on the floor and make a lot of hustle plays too.
Waggener has been a solid defender at the post. Duerk has played a lot of minutes at the No. 4 forward spot. Leah McAlister has had more spot play.
“That’s five freshmen mixing in with several sophomores and a couple of seniors,” said Bennett. “It takes some time for everyone to mesh and know what they are doing.”
Senior Jilian Partin has been known throughout her career for her ability to provide a spark on the court with her play. She has been doing that down the stretch run and could be the catalyst for a successful tournament run. She has double-doubles in rebounding and scoring in her last two games.
“Jilian has really picked up her game the last three weeks,” said Bennett. “She is scoring by going to the basket and making 3-point shots. She has been more selective in when she goes to the basket.
“Katie Rollins has been coming off the bench and giving some good rebounding games and scoring games. She is also a senior and it is good to see the seniors coming on strong.”
Last year the Lady Bisons finished the regular season on an upbeat note and advanced to the semifinals of the tournament with a win over Belmont in the quarterfinals. They lost to ETSU in the semifinal round.
“Winning the regular season championship is a great honor,” said Bennett. “But when you get to the tournament is doesn’t matter what your record is. It is a new season because the way you play in those three games determines if you are going to the NCAA Tournament.
“Last year we won three straight to end the regular season and then beat Belmont for our fourth straight win. This year it hasn’t been that dramatic, but in six of our last seven games we played good solid basketball. We didn’t win all of those games but we played well. We usually lost those games in the last minute to a minute-and-half. Jacksonville was the only exception.”