Brandon Brown stretched out his arms, shook his head in disbelief and muttered what every Lipscomb fan must have been thinking Tuesday night.
“What a difference 12 days make,” he sighed.
Brown, a Lipscomb senior, helped the Bisons pull off one of the biggest 180s the Battle of the Boulevard series has ever seen. The Brentwood Academy graduate scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Lipscomb rallied from 18 down to upset Belmont 73-64 in front of 5,122 fans at an electric Allen Arena.
When the clock ticked down to zero, senior guard Josh Slater heaved the basketball toward the ceiling as Lipscomb students stormed the court. They mauled the Bisons players and even lifted Slater on their shoulders for a few seconds.
It was quite the turnaround as, less than two weeks ago, Belmont blew out Lipscomb 88-52 at the Curb Event Center. The Bisons (12-8, 7-4 Atlantic Sun) have won four of their last five against Belmont (18-4, 10-1), which saw its nine-game winning streak come to an end.
“Like coach [Scott Sanderson] talked about, after a loss like that it can’t do anything but humble you,” Brown said. “Credit to the coaching staff and all the guys in the locker room. We have been battling our butts off since our last game, just trying to get better every day.”
Brown gave the Bisons a lead they wouldn’t relinquish when he scored off an offensive rebound with 4:57 to go for a 58-56 advantage. A couple minutes later, Jordan Burgason hit one of his game-high four 3-pointers to push the lead to 63-56.
Belmont didn’t go away, though, getting 3-pointers from Drew Hanlen and Jordan Campbell to cut it to 65-62 with 1:32 left.
That's when Burgason had the final answer. His 3-pointer on the next possession did Belmont in and it appeared he knew it as he flashed a smirk and motioned with his hands to the student section.
The junior guard finished with 17 points on 4-of-7 shooting — all from 3-point range — to go along with six rebounds, which tied a career-high.
“I have been struggling shooting the ball a little bit and this was a big game to lift my spirits up and get my stroke back going,” Burgason said. “I just so happened to hit some crucial shots in the end. We played together as a team and got that team victory. It feels great.”
Belmont led 38-20 after Kerron Johnson’s 3-pointer with 4:03 remaining in the first half. With leading scorer Adnan Hodzic leading the way, Lipscomb put together a little run. Hodzic scored seven points during the last four minutes as the Bisons outscored Belmont 11-2 to trail just 40-31 at intermission.
“I think it was huge — the last four minutes,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. “They got it down to nine and they felt like they were winning at that point because they had been down by 18. Then we let them come out and score the first couple baskets of the second half. Then it was officially anybody’s game.”
Hodzic scored 11 of Lipscomb’s first 16 points in the second half. He capped it off with a tip-in with 13 minutes left to tie the game at 47.
Hodzic, who had just seven points in his first outing this season against Belmont, finished with a game-high 26 points. He was 8-of-13 from the free-throw line.
But Brown was the difference-maker.
The 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward played much better than he had in Lipscomb’s lost to Belmont on Jan. 13, when he scored just five points on 2-of-7 shooting. This time , his energy was evident from the get-go. Brown, who averages just 7.1 points and 3.9 rebounds, had eight points and six rebounds by halftime.
“He stepped up big,” Sanderson said. “We needed every one of his plays on both ends of the floor.”
While the focus appeared to be on Hodzic, who saw double and triple teams most of the night, Brown broke free. He streaked down the lane several times for rebounds, and on occasions it looked like Belmont forgot about Brown, not boxing him out and allowing for easy putbacks.
After a 8-for-9 shooting night, there is no doubt he had Belmont’s attention by game’s end.
“I can see why they would [forget]. You got Josh. You got Adnan. You got Jordan. You got a lot of good players out there,” he said. “Coach just has been talking to me about that all year — if they don’t respect you, you got to punish them. You have to punish them on the backboard, like I tried to do [Tuesday] night — just doing anything, like bringing energy. Anything to help the team out — that is what I am trying to do out there.”
• Belmont’s Jon House tied a career-high with three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points, which all came in the first four minutes of the game. Hanlen led the Bruins with 12 and Blake Jenkins added 10.
• Since the loss to Belmont on Jan. 13, Lipscomb has won three of four and is now third in the Atlantic Sun standings.
• Belmont entered the game averaging 9.5 3-pointers a game, which is the third-highest clip in the nation. The Bruins were 9-of-29 on Tuesday.
• In Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology projections on ESPN.com, which came out Monday, Belmont was a 13 seed in the Southeast Region of the NCAA Tournament. He projected the Bruins would play No. 4 seed Missouri in the first round in Tampa.
Also of interest, Lunardi had Vanderbilt as a sixth seed playing 11th-seeded Xavier in the opening round of West Region in Charlotte. He had Tennessee State as a 16 seed in play-in game with Hampton, with the winner getting defending national champion Duke in the first round of the Southeast Region. In that same region, Tennessee was a No. 9 seed and is projected to play No. 8 seed Saint Mary’s.
• The Belmont and Lipscomb women’s basketball teams will play at 7 p.m. Thursday at Allen Arena. The Bruins (7-12, 4-6 A-Sun) have lost three straight and four out of their last five with their only win during the stretch being a 56-52 decision over Lipscomb on Jan. 13. The Bisons, also 7-12 and 4-6 in league play, have dropped five in a row.