Although the first meeting between the Belmont Bruins and Lipscomb Bisons came down to the final seconds, the Bruins crushed the Bisons 94-64 Wednesday night in front of a packed Curb Event Center.
“It was a good that we were able to get a lead, sustain it and actually build on it. The other games have been harder ones,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. “But this was the first time we really even had a chance to win a game with any margin.”
Five Bruins scored in double digits, but the star of the night was freshman Evan Bradds who tallied a career-high 19 points and eight rebounds for Belmont. Sophomore guard Craig Bradshaw also had a career-high 16 points on the night.
“It’s encouraging to see those guys starting to feel comfortable. It’s not easy to come in as a freshman in college and feel like you belong right away,” Byrd said.
The Bruins had no trouble getting off to strong lead on a 8-0 run behind Bradshaw and senior Drew Windler. With 13:45 remaining, Bradds entered the game off the bench to score five straight points and pushed the lead 20-9.
“He is really a mature true freshman, looks like he has been playing our system for a long time,” Byrd said. “He’s playing little out of position. When two starters get two fouls in a hurry, somebody had to. He was great.”
Senior JJ Mann got into a rhythm of his own with a beautiful move inside to the post and caught his own rebound off a missed three to give Belmont the 24-12 lead with 12 minutes to go.
“Coach Byrd said after the North Carolina win, the game on Wednesday is more important. We came out ready and got to a good start,” Mann said.
With less than two minutes to go, Bradshaw dished a blind pass inside the paint to find Bradds, who slammed it down for the score. The Bruins closed out the half on a layup from Mann to put them up 47-26.
In the first half, Belmont shot an impressive 58 percent from the field while holding Lipscomb just to 31 percent.
Belmont picked up in the second half right where they left off after quick shots from Bradshaw and a one-hand dunk from Blake Jenkins. Minutes later, Bradshaw had a slam dunk of his own to put the Bruins up 58-34.
Lipscomb tried to close down the gap behind Malcolm Smith, who scored six points in the opening minutes of the second half for the Bisons.
However, the Bruins would not hand over command of the court and eventually put together a 30 point lead that was too much for Lipscomb to cut down.
With the win, Belmont completes the season sweep of Lipscomb with its fifth straight win in the series. The Bruins extended their NCAA-best to 22 straight home game victories.
“I wish that our students could show up like this every game. Everyone would have a lot of fun. It is such a great atmosphere,” Byrd said. “We got the best students there is when it’s important for them to show up.”
The Bruins will return to action this weekend against Holy Cross as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off series.