For at least the next week, Belmont Boulevard belongs to Lipscomb.
The Bisons basketball team had to hold off a late rally from the Bruins, but ultimately pulled out a 74-66 road win at Curb Event Center.
Lipscomb’s victory snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Bruins, marking the first time since January 2012 that the Bisons have claimed a “Battle of the Boulevard” matchup.
“The reason this win feels so good is because [Belmont] is a great team,” Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said. “This win is incredibly meaningful for our players and for our school.”
Junior guard Garrison Mathews poured in 22 points to lead the Bisons, while teammate Rob Marberry chipped in 18.
The ending provided plenty of excitement, but the first half was a much different story as the two teams combined for 13 turnovers. The game was knotted at just 26 apiece at halftime.
“I thought the first half was pretty sloppy on both sides,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. “[Lipscomb] was just the better team, and they were certainly the better-coached team.”
The Bisons started the second half with a 14-0 run to swing the momentum in their favor. However, Belmont slowly clawed back and eventually cut Lipscomb’s lead to 64-63 with 3:14 left to play.
“We weren’t too nervous – teams are going to go on runs,” Marberry said of Belmont’s attempted comeback. “We were confident that we could get the win.”
Lipscomb used two pivotal moments to pull away from the Bruins in crunch time. The first came via a Kenny Cooper steal, and the sophomore finished with a layup on the other end to extend Lipscomb’s lead to 66-63.
“Kenny’s a great player,” Mathews said. “That [sequence] was huge for us. It seems like whenever we need a bucket, he’s always there.”
With 24 seconds remaining, Belmont failed to block out Lipscomb’s Eli Pepper on a missed free throw, allowing the big man to extend the Bisons’ lead to 72-66.
From there, Mathews nailed a pair of free throws and dribbled out the final seconds to seal the victory.
Cooper and Pepper both finished with 10 points for Lipscomb, while Nick Hopkins led Belmont with 14.
The win provided some vengeance for the Bisons, who dropped a pair of two-point contests to Belmont last season.
“We had comfortable leads in both games [last year],” Alexander said. “We talked at halftime about being tough for 20 minutes, because no matter how the game ebbed and flowed, we had to prepare for it to come down to the very end.”
The two rivals will meet again for the 142nd edition of the series on Dec. 5. Tip-off will follow the conclusion of the Lipscomb-Belmont women’s game, which is slated for 5 p.m. at Allen Arena.
“We’ll stick with a lot of the same formula,” Alexander said. “They didn’t play their best game, so we’ll expect them to have a little bit more of an edge next week.”
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb Athletics