Really, the first five minutes were meaningless.
However, it didn’t appear that way after Belmont missed eight of its first 10 shots and fell into an eight-point hole to Lipscomb in the latest Battle of the Boulevard.
But the Bruins stuck to what they do best and kept shooting. Paced by 30 points and seven 3-pointers from Ian Clark, they shot their way out of the slump and to a 100-66 beatdown of the Bisons at Belmont’s Curb Event Center on Tuesday night.
It was the most points Belmont scored against Lipscomb since a 115-104 win in 1995. Behind a season-high 15 3-pointers, the Bruins (6-2) swept the regular-season series for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
“We just got to keep shooting,” Clark said. “I’m not going to hit every shot. I got kind of spoiled going 10-for-10 last game [on Saturday against VCU]. I just had to find a rhythm and a lot of guys did.”
Conversely, Lipscomb (3-4) made eight of its opening 10 shots. Deonte Alexander’s driving layup with 13:19 left in the half gave the Bisons their largest lead, 18-10.
Then roles reversed.
Lipscomb went quiet, making just four baskets over the last 13 minutes. Clark began to drill 3-pointers, sinking three straight. His fourth of five first-half 3-pointers capped off a 19-4 run and propelled Belmont to a 29-22 lead with 7:28 remaining. The Bruins grabbed their largest advantage, 11 points, on back-to-back 3-pointers by Trevor Noack and led 45-35 at halftime.
“We don’t play through adversity,” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “When they hit a couple shots in a row we don’t play through adversity very well.”
Lipscomb came out of the break and quickly pulled within seven. But Clark again answered. He nailed consecutive 3-pointers for a 51-38 advantage. The Bisons cut the deficit to nine three more times but failed to keep up. Belmont grabbed a commanding 71-52 lead on Clark’s steal, layup and free throw with 10:57 to go.
It was Clark's highest point total since he scored a career-high 31 late in his freshman season. In his last four games, the senior has made 20 3-pointers. He entered shooting 57.1 percent from 3-point range —third-best in the country.
“Ian is obviously playing incredibly well,” coach Rick Byrd said. “Ian, over the course of the first eight games, I think has played better than any player we’ve ever had for that stretch of time — at least in the NCAA era.”
Kerron Johnson added 17 points despite sitting out the last 11:07 of the first half with two fouls. The senior feasted off trips to the free-throw line, making 10 of 11. Belmont was 25 of 40 at the line. Reece Chamberlain had 11 points and made three 3-pointers.
Khion Sankey led Lipscomb with 15 points. Martin Smith scored 13 and Stephen Hurt chipped in 11 as the Bisons lost their third straight to Belmont.
The Bruins have beaten Lipscomb by margins of 26, 29 and 34 in the last three games and have won four of six.
“I wouldn’t have guessed [the final score] but everybody knows that we wanted to have it this way,” Clark said. “It is a rivalry game. There is a lot of bad blood. But at the same time we are going to make sure we go out and perform well and I think we did that.”