It was a cold February night, but inside the gym, there was red-hot shooting in a game none of the 15,000-plus fans who attended would soon forget.
Long before the days of NCAA Div. I play, Lipscomb and Belmont staged a spectacular renewal of their basketball rivalry at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym on Feb. 17, 1990. And as a preview of the renewal of the Battle of the Boulevard between the teams coming up Monday, Lipscomb hosted a 20th anniversary celebration of the game Wednesday at Allen Arena.
Four of the key participants from that game were on hand to share their memories and recollections — center Joe Behling and guard Scott Corley of Belmont and center Philip Hutcheson and forward Darren Henrie of Lipscomb. All were seniors at the time. All four are in their respective schools’ Hall of Fame.
Back in '90, Lipscomb won 124-107 in a game where both teams shot better than 50 percent, players rained down 21 three-pointers (13 by Lipscomb, eight by Belmont) and where a sellout 15,399 packed in to watch the NAIA's Top-5 powers go at it.
Hundreds more were turned away in a game Belmont allowed to be moved from its campus for the special event.
“I remember Wade Tomlinson, Marcus Bodie, Darren and myself coming to the game and we arrived well before the women’s game and we had to park so far away,’’ said Hutcheson, who is in his second year as the Lipscomb athletic director. “The four of us all scored 20 or more points (Hutcheson had a team high 30). The excitement was electric, and the gym was nearly full when we got there.
“Some of the guys on our team were guessing what the attendance would be, some guessed 8,000, the most was 9 or 10,000,’’ he said. “No one had a 15,000 guess.’’
Behling, who poured in 45 points and grabbed 17 rebounds (both game highs) remember the charge he got from the crowd.
“I remember how electric it was, we had two top five teams there, lighting it up,’’ he said. “Everyone was hitting, and the crowd really got into it.’’
Behling has kept in touch over the years with his post-rival Hutcheson. Behling is coaching his son Sam, 8, at the JCC.
“I just remember the crowd noise, the way the Vanderbilt gym was — it felt like we were up on a stage performing,’’ said Corley, a former Brentwood High star who was coach Rick Byrd’s first recruit. He is a commercial lender at Regions Bank.
“We thought there would be maybe 8 to 10,000 people there, but we found out later that they turned away several hundred more at the door,’’ said Corley who passed the 2,000 point mark during the game.
“I happened so fast,’’ said Henrie, a former Franklin High star and who is coaching the Centennial High boys team which is 11-5 at the halfway point of the season.
“I remember the pace of the game was so high, almost like a blur. When the game was over, I remember them bringing us to the table in the press room for interviews, and we had never done anything like that before,’’ Henrie said. “Coach (Don) Meyer approached it like any other game.’’
One thing amused Hutcheson during the game.
“I saw some of the Vanderbilt players seated behind our bench. Once, when Darren launched a three almost 10 feet behind the arc, their players put their hands to their heads, like ‘oh, no.’ When it swished in, they were all high-fiving each other,’’ Hutcheson said.
As an aside, the old minor league hockey Nashville Knights, who were in their first season, drew a packed 6,000 fans that night for their game at Municipal Auditorium. That gave Nashville, which had no major league teams at the time, an impressive 21,000-plus fans at the two events.