The Lipscomb men’s basketball team won to the Alabama A&M’s Bulldogs 66-63 Thursday night in a close whiplash of a battle at Allen Arena, home of the Bisons.
A principal player for the night was freshman forward Jacob Ognacevic, spending 29 minutes on the court and making 16 points for the Bisons. Not only did he lead the team in points, but he also lead them in rebounds, producing 8 of them.
Sophomore guard KJ Johnson made 12 points for the Bisons, including 6-7 free throw shooting at crucial times in the game. Freshman guard Will Pruitt got 7 rebounds as well as made 3-4 three-pointers, gathering a total of 11 points for the team.
A highlight of the night was seeing junior center Ahsan Asadullah join the court for the first time since his injury, playing a total of 17 minutes. Atlanta-born Asadullah stepped onto the court for the first time in over a month due to his leg injury, getting cheers from the sidelines and spectators, especially when he scored his first 7 points for the team since November.
Alabama A&M led off with the ball, but it was quickly turned over to Lipscomb and back again to the Bulldogs in which EJ Williams scored the first two points for Alabama with a layup.
Johnson missed an attempt to respond, and freshman point guard Will Pruitt made a jumper on an offensive rebound, bringing them even with Alabama A&M early. Pruitt added a 3-pointer on the next possession, but the Bulldogs quickly pulled a 3-pointer back thanks to Garrett Hicks, who led the visitors with 19 points.
The first half replicated this back-and-forth ricochet behavior with the ball, though the Bisons ended leading with 32-29 on the scoreboard.
Alabama A&M got in the lead for the first time in the second half with 12:45 left on the clock. There was more neck-to-neck action between the teams as they fought for the lead, but Lipscomb’s freshman guard Tommy Murr got two free throws to make up the difference on the scoreboard.
Right afterward, Alabama A&M’s Cameron Tucker hit a jumper, putting the Bulldogs in the lead once again. Right after, Lipscomb’s KJ Johnson mimicked that play, getting a jumper in the paint.
Continuing the back-and-forth narrative, Bulldog EJ Williams made two free throws, followed by a breakaway layup from freshman forward Jacob Ognacevic. This jumpstarted a 9-point streak for the Bisons.
The defense was great on both sides, but the Bulldogs stepped into new tactics, trapping the Bisons in corners, leaving little options to play or make good shots from any angle. Eventually, Alabama A&M got a 1-point lead with 2:36 remaining on the clock.
Luckily, Johnson made three straight points for the team, all from the free-throw line. With 24.7 on the clock, Lipscomb finally got ahead by 1 point at 64-63. Quincy Clark got another two free throws for the Bisons to create more of a gap between the score with a total of 66-63.
A timeout was called with 6.9 remaining, and an A&M attempt from 3-point range was no good. There was a short review as the referees determined who owned the ensuing inbound, and they ended up giving the Bisons the basketball. With 1.4 on the clock, Lipscomb inbounded successfully, and they held onto it until the timer went off.
The second half came to a tie of 34-34, the Bisons’ win boiling down to their three-point lead in the first half. The game was tight, the defense was solid, and the Bisons made a few clutch shots, leaving them with 7 wins and 8 losses for the season.
“It’s just been really hard to get in any kind of rhythm,” head coach Lennie Acuff said regarding the team in a post-game interview. “After finding out that junior guard Greg Jones couldn’t play, along with Asadullah not playing in almost two months, it was hard to get into any flow of playing.”
Though Acuff was happy with the win, he still acknowledged how close it was throughout the game. He stated it was a learning process before adding, “I’d much rather learn winning than learn losing.”
The Bisons return to Allen Arena for the ASUN Conference opener against the North Alabama Lions 7 pm Tuesday. That match will be unavailable on The Bison but can be streamed live via ESPN+.
Photo by Aggie Kopp