At times on Monday, Lipscomb showed poise and made plays typical of a veteran team.
Unfortunately for the Bisons, inexperience reared its ugly head enough to hinder the nation’s third-youngest team from stealing a signature win.
Lipscomb couldn’t hold onto an early five-point lead in the second half, falling 88-79 to Murray State in front of an announced crowd of 4,985 at Allen Arena. Overwhelmed by a season-high 32 points from Isaiah Canaan and 11 Murray State 3-pointers, the Bisons’ comeback attempt came up short.
“We’re not really into moral victories,” sophomore forward Martin Smith said. “But we played hard. We showed some fight. It showed the fight that we have deep down inside and we’re capable of playing with teams like Murray State.”
Just three days removed from a 91-45 blowout defeat to Ole Miss, the Bisons (2-3) surprisingly hung with the defending Ohio Valley Conference champ. In the first half, they shot 40 percent and answered the Racers (5-1) with big shots and tough play on the boards. Khion Sankey tipped in his own miss with three seconds left to give Lipscomb a 40-39 halftime lead.
Deonte Alexander’s floater in the lane pushed the lead to 46-41 just two minutes into the second half. But Murray State (5-1) responded with six straight points. Canaan, the reigning OVC Player of the Year, nailed one of his six 3-pointers to put the Racers in front for good.
“They lost me a couple times,” Canaan said. “In a zone you’ve got to find the open gaps anyway. We did a good job of finding the open man and the open gaps in their zone and made them pay.”
Several defensive lapses and ill-timed offensive rebounds by Murray State cost Lipscomb later in the half. Murray State shot 48.3 percent and outrebounded Lipscomb 47-37. But an 11-2 run was the dagger. The Racers grabbed a commanding 12-point lead on Stacy Wilson’s 3-pointer with 5:04 left.
Lipscomb wasn’t through, though, as Carter Sanderson knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer in the corner to pull the Bisons within 80-76 with 1:53 left. On their next possession, they missed two 3-pointers. Sankey went up for a putback but Ed Daniel swatted away the comeback with one of his five blocks as the Racers sealed the game at the line.
“I thought our energy and our effort and will to win was tremendous,” coach Scott Sanderson said. “I thought we played extremely hard. I felt like at the very end we ran out of gas. They’re a veteran team that jumped up and made some big shots, which is what veteran teams do.”
Four Bisons scored in double-digit figures, paced by 22 from Malcolm Smith, who tied a career-high. Deonte Alexander and Martin Smith each set season-highs with 17 points and Sanderson had 10.
The Racers benefited from 48.3 percent shooting and three players with 20 points or more for the first time since 1997. Wilson tied a season-high with 23 points. Daniel recorded his fourth straight double-double with 18 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
The senior trio of Canaan, Wilson and Daniel was enough to outlast the Bisons, who have nine newcomers, including seven freshmen. Lipscomb has just 12 years of collegiate experience on its 15-player roster, sitting behind only Navy and UC Santa Barbara.
“I just thought at some point our seniors were going to win out if we could get a couple shots and it proved true,” Murray State coach Steve Prohm said. “But credit Lipscomb, they came out and responded well from their Ole Miss game. They took our punches, kept coming back, making shots.”