Like just about every other aspect of Monday’s 125th meeting between the Lipscomb and Belmont basketball teams, Josh Slater’s dunk was not a thing of beauty.
It got the job done, though, and so did the rest of the Bisons, who won 64-53 behind a game-high 16 points from Slater and in front of an Allen Arena record crowd of 5,414 which saw both teams struggle to score, particularly from beyond the 3-point arc.
The victory was Lipscomb’s largest in the series since a 24-point triumph (99-75) back on Dec. 12, 1995 – 17 meetings ago. More importantly, it provided an important edge in a matchup between two of the four teams that entered the week tied atop the Atlantic Sun Conference standings.
“That was weak,” Slater said of the ‘dunk,’ which extended his team’s lead to 16 (59-43) with 3:52 to play. “That was a layup — half a dunk. My teammates were giving me a hard time about it. So I’m not going to count it.”
The truth was that neither team was in any position to give back points, regardless of how they were scored. In the case of Slater’s final field goal, it was a baseline drive in which he pulled on the rim as the ball floated out of his hands and through the net.
For the game, the junior guard was 5-for-13 from the field, which amounts to 38.5 percent. He still managed to reach his season scoring average of 15.3 coming into the night.
That was better than Lipscomb (8-7, 5-1 in the A-Sun) fared as a team. The Bisons were a combined 22-for-60 (36.7 percent). Their 64 points were more than 18 below their season average and equaled their lowest total of the season.
Or course Belmont (9-7, 4-2) shot just 35 percent as a team (21-for-60) from the field and made only eight of 19 (42.1 percent) foul shots. The only time this season the Bruins scored fewer was when they were held to 51 by former No. 1 Kansas.
“It was pandemic,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. “Everything that we could do wrong – execute, shoot, decision-making, free throw shooting blocking out … we were pretty good defensively, but this was the worst offensive performance by a Belmont team that I’ve ever seen.”
Belmont was, in fact, worse than Lipscomb when it came to 3-point shots. But not by much.
The Bruins made three of 25 while the Bisons made three of 23. The only player for either side who made more than one was Lipscomb’s Brian Wright, who hit on two of five.
Wright finished with 10 points and was one of three Bisons in double figures. In addition to Slater, Adnan Hodzic had 15.
Belmont got a team-high nine points from Scott Saunders, who was limited to 19 minutes by foul trouble.
“I thought overall, defensively, we were pretty good,” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “We’ve been playing excellent offensively, but you have to give them a lot of credit defensively. They took a lot of shots away.
“You play those guys, you know each other so well it’s like a gridlock. You can’t get good shots on the perimeter or in the low post.”
Or on dunks, for that matter.
Lipscomb 74, Belmont 68 (OT)
Jenna Bartsokas scored a career-high 27 points, including seven in overtime, as the Lady Bisons won for just the second time in their last 10 games.
Bartsokas put Lipscomb (4-12, 2-4) ahead to stay with a 3-pointer 22 seconds into the extra period. The junior guard then made five of six free throws in the final 20 seconds.
Her point total was the highest by a Lady Bisons’ player this season.
Belmont (7-7, 2-4) trailed by five, 59-54, with 39 to go in regulation but tied it 59-59 on Amber Rockwell’s driving layup with 13.9 seconds remaining. Rockwell, whose 3-pointer cut the deficit to 59-57, led all scorers with 30 points but was held to just two in the overtime.
Lipscomb had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Anna Bowers missed a jump shot at the buzzer.