Belmont offered more than a two-man show Friday night.
Anchored by a veteran backcourt, the Bruins spread the wealth to open the season. All five starters scored in double figures in an 89-60 victory over Lipscomb in the 131st installment of the Battle of the Boulevard rivalry.
Senior guards Kerron Johnson scored 22 points and Ian Clark added 19 as Belmont led from start to finish in a convincing win in front of 4,685 at Lipscmb's Allen Arena.
J.J. Mann, who scored 17 points, drilled Belmont’s 11th 3-pointer for an insurmountable 79-52 lead with 4:39 left. Trevor Noack had 11 points and Blake Jenkins chipped in 10.
The Bruins, who left Lipscomb and the Atlantic Sun Conference for the Ohio Valley Conference this season, picked up their third win in the last five games of the rivalry.
“We have to be more than a two-man team and [Friday] was a step in the right direction,” coach Rick Byrd said. “I thought for our team this year this turned out to be a really good win for us. Although we’ve got a lot of guys who won some games this is a different team and we’re not built the same way. To come in and win by this margin ... is really good for this team’s confidence.”
Belmont led the entire game, jumping in front 19-10 before Lipscomb sophomore Carter Sanderson answered with four straight points.
Then the Bisons went on a four-minute drought and the Bruins pounced. Noack capped off an 11-4 run with a putback for a 30-18 lead with 4:49 left in the half. Four seconds before halftime, Noack was left open for an easy layup and 42-26 lead at the break.
Lipscomb, which started three newcomers – two junior college transfers and a true freshman – showed some fight in the second half, pulling within 12 points three times. Belmont responded each time, the last with a 3-point dagger at the top of the key from Johnson for a 61-46 advantage with 12:15 remaining.
“You kind of feel the footsteps but then again we’ve all been there,” Johnson said. “When they made that run, Coach put in [the five starters] that have been there. We were able to halt that run. As upperclassmen, that’s our job. We know what can happen if we let them get rolling. We’ve seen it in the past years and we were determined this year not to let that happen.”
Lipscomb’s youth and inexperience showed with 25 turnovers, which Belmont turned into 32 points.
Lone senior Deonte Alexander had a team-high 14 points while Sanderson, the son of coach Scott Sanderson, came off the bench to score a career-13. The duo combined for seven 3-pointers but it wasn’t enough to cancel out Belmont’s perimeter shooting.
The Bruins shot 40.7 percent from beyond the arc. Four players hit treys with five from Clark and four from Mann.
“It is hard to stop them when you have such a great driver in Kerron Johnson,” Carter Sanderson said. “He creates a lot of space. If we help out on his drives they kick out for a wide-open 3. We were hoping they wouldn’t make so many.”