In a game where Belmont struggled to shoot from the free throw line, free throws are what saved the Bruins in a tightly contested Battle of the Boulevard game.
After drawing a foul with 7.5 seconds to go, JJ Mann sank a shot from the charity stripe to give Belmont the 87-83 victory against an aggressive Lipscomb team.
“Well it was pretty crazy, first of all, but it was lots of fun. It’s college basketball on the road, it’s great,” Mann said. “It was so tight the whole time, and at the end we’re up two, so hitting those free throws … I felt pretty comfortable when we went up four.”
When asked to walk through the last few minutes of the contest, coach Rick Byrd simply said, “Nope, I can’t remember them.”
Early in the contest, persistence from Mann and Craig Bradshaw gave Belmont a tight 9-8 lead in the first five minutes.
A Blake Jenkins dunk extended Belmont’s lead 20-10 until Bison Keion Sankey sailed a three to close it to 22-15 by the eight minute mark.
In the next two minutes, Carter Sanderson, son of former Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson had two consecutive threes.
Sanderson ended the night as Lipscomb’s leading scorer with 21 points.
“They made shots. JC Hampton’s a good shooter, but he didn’t play much. Carter shot thirty percent last year,” Byrd said. “Their guys that were making 30 percent last year were making shots.”
At the half Belmont led 35-32 with Jenkins topping the team with eight defensive rebounds and Bradshaw was the leading scorer for the half with eight points.
In the second half, the teams would battle for the lead as Lipscomb committed 35 fouls while Belmont struggled to capitalize from behind the line, shooting 63.5 percent.
Sanderson sank another three just four minutes in, giving the Bisons the 40-39 lead for mere seconds until Drew Windler answered with two threes of his own.
Lipscomb then regained the lead 52-48 after three consecutive JC Hampton threes seven minutes into the half.
Two minutes later Bradshaw hit a three cutting Lipscomb’s lead to five.
By the eight minute mark, a JJ Mann lay-in cut Lipscomb’s lead to one. In the ensuing offensive drive, he drew a foul allowing Belmont to regain the lead 66-65 with successful shots from the charity stripe.
Belmont would clung to a one point lead until Mann’s foul shots at 1:09 giving Belmont a 84-82 lead.
“We had some guys make some huge plays, I’m not surprised Reece Chamberlain comes in with this big steal and starts making his free throws, he stepped up. We had some guys starting to get some rebounds and we started playing more solid defense,” Mann said.
Lipscomb committed a turnover with 15.2 seconds left in the contest, setting up the a Belmont timeout.
Caleb Chowbay was able to draw yet another Lipscomb foul with 12.3 seconds after a long inbound pass downcourt. After making both attempts, Belmont had all they needed to set up Mann’s insurance shot.
“I felt like we had some guys make some good plays like Nick Smith and Caleb Chowbay and went to the free throw line when everyone was missing them, as freshmen, they made them,” Byrd said.