Lipscomb didn’t know any better — and on Friday night that naivety paid dividends.
Trailing by 12 in the second half on the road to experience-rich and archrival Belmont, by all accounts the Bison should have trekked the three miles back to campus with a loss.
Lipscomb, and its seven freshmen, however, didn’t show any fear in front of a sellout of 5,227 at the Curb Event Center. Instead, the Bison just revved up the intensity, rattling off 18 straight points for a stunning 85-74 victory to snap Belmont’s 22 home-game winning streak, which was the eighth-longest in the nation.
Belmont coach Rick Byrd called it an upset as the Bruins (11-6, 4-1 Atlantic Sun) entered on a four-game winning streak while Lipscomb (8-9, 3-2) had lost five of its last six.
“We’re consistently inconsistent,” said Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson, whose squad has won five of the last six in the series. “During our game, you might say wow three times and that definition might mean something different all three times.
"... I was very proud of our guys to hang in there and battle in a great college basketball environment.”
With 14:53 to go and trailing by just six, freshman Malcolm Smith drew a technical foul after throwing Belmont’s Brandon Baker to the floor. That turned into a six-point possession for the Bruins as Ian Clark sunk four straight free throws — two for a personal foul — and J.J. Mann made a jumper for their largest lead, 55-43, with 14:37 to go.
“It is a blur at this point to me at how they came back and won,” Byrd said. “Momentum is an amazing thing. I don’t know if the technical created some. If anything, it should have energized us more than it energized them.”
Belmont appeared to be in the driver’s seat, up 11 with 8:45 to go. That’s when Lipscomb and freshman Deonte Alexander caught fire.
Alexander followed up three straight Jordan Burgason free throws with a falling jumper and a 3-pointer. As he went back down the court, he veered neared the Belmont student section, holding up three fingers with a wide smile. After Justin Glenn blocked one of his career-high five shots, the senior bounced a jumper off the rim to cut the deficit to one.
Two minutes later, Alexander gave Lipscomb its first lead since late in the first half when he banked in a 3-pointer with 3:53 to go. He scored eight of his 11 points in a five-minute span.
“They were doubling [Burgason] a lot and they were just leaving me open. I was knocking down the shots,” Alexander, a Glencliff High grad, said. “The last game I didn’t play very well [going scoreless against North Florida on Wednesday] and I am one of those inconsistent players [Sanderson] is talking about. But I am just trying to get better.”
Clark finally snapped the scoring drought with Belmont’s first basket in nearly seven minutes, hitting a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 75-71 with 1:58 left. It was too little too late as Lipscomb made 11 straight free throws to ice the victory.
Six Bison scored in double figures, led by junior Jacob Arnett, who tied a career-high with 17 points. Burgason, a senior, added 16 and surpassed the 1,000-point mark in his career. Glenn filled the box score with 14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Malcolm Smith, who didn’t return after the technical, had 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Redshirt freshman Damarius Smith finished with 11.
Belmont made just two shots over the last 8:45 and turned the ball over 15 times. They received just 11 points from post players Scott Saunders and Mick Hedgepeth and had to rely on the 3-point shot, making just 13-of-36 from beyond the arc.
Clark paced the squad with a season-high 28 points on 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. But he was the only one who had much luck as leading scorer Kerron Johnson was off, scoring 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting and committing five turnovers. Mann had 10 points but was just 2-of-11 from 3-point range.
“I thought we lost our composure from the beginning,” Byrd said. “I thought we had a lot of guys try to make individual plays outside of the scope of our concept on offense. ... We should be the team playing with composure and I didn’t feel like we did 40 minutes worth, really.”