Jon House doesn’t have his win-loss record against Lipscomb memorized.
But the Belmont senior has no problem recalling the losses, like the two last year, especially the one at home when the Bruins blew a 13-point lead in the second half.
“No loss is fun but the Lipscomb losses stick around your head a little longer,” House, a forward, said. “It counts the same as every loss in the season but there is a little bit more of a taste in your mouth after this one.”
House and the Bruins will try to avoid losing their fourth straight in the Battle of the Boulevard series when Lipscomb makes the short trip for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off Thursday at the Curb Event Center. The women’s teams will play at 4:30 p.m.
Lipscomb (9-6, 4-2 Atlantic Sun) might have the leg up in the rivalry as of late, but this year the Bisons have gone through some struggles. Before Monday’s home win against North Florida, they had lost four of five, including two non-conference defeats at Alabama and then-ranked Memphis.
Lipscomb has not only had problems on defense — it has allowed 75.7 points per game, which is ranked 308th out of 335 teams in Division I — but its high-powered offense also has sputtered. The Bisons still average 77.9 points a game, due in large part to forward Adnan Hodzic (19.5 points per game) and guard Josh Slater (18.2 ppg), but during a recent losing stretch, they scored fewer than 60 points twice. That included a 51-point performance against Alabama on Dec. 21.
“Sometimes it is hard to put your finger on it. Offensively, we haven’t clicked yet,” Slater said. “I think the main problem is being consistent over 40 minutes. We haven’t play consistently over the span of a game, except for a couple games this year and that hurt us. We are just looking to get better each day in practice and make consistent improvement.”
Belmont, on the other hand, is off to its best start since moving up to Division I from NAIA in 1996. The Bruins are 14-3, winners of five straight and nine of their last 10 and are 6-0 in league play, which puts them atop the A-Sun standings.
Their depth — 11 players average 10 minutes a game — seems to have taken a toll on opponents. Belmont has allowed fewer than 60 points a game in the last four games, including just 50 against Jacksonville on Monday.
“I don’t know if it is lately [that the defense has improved]. I think our defensive numbers are really good this year,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. “I think playing the number of people  we are playing and the style of play [helps]. We are pressing after make. We are pressing on every dead ball. We want to create a more up-tempo game. It is more fun to play and when you know there is a guy that can come in that is as good as you and can play just as hard as you just did, it is a big plus.”
Regardless of both team’s record or statistics or rankings, players in the rivalry say that it is all forgotten when they step on the floor. That is, it is all forgotten except for the result.
“There is no taking them lightly that is for sure,” House said. “No matter how well they are playing going into the game or how poorly they are playing, or vice versa, same for us, it is a different game. Everyone is going to be playing at their hardest. There is going to be a lot of energy and adrenaline. So we definitely don’t take them lightly and it would be a mistake if we did.”