In their second meeting within a week, the Belmont Bruins beat the Lipscomb Bisons, 78-76, in a thrilling overtime matchup.
Here are six takeaways from the game.
1. Belmont struggled throughout the first half
Much like last week, Belmont struggled through the first 20 minutes of play.
Lipscomb double-teamed reigning OVC Player of the Year Evan Bradds in the paint, which encouraged Belmont to pass the ball along the perimeter and shoot threes.
The shots weren’t falling, though. The Bruins missed their first six attempts from the beyond the arc, before freshman guard Michael Benkert came off the bench and made a three with 13:22 remaining.
As a result, Belmont finished the half with just 26 points, as they shot 3-of-20 from distance and 11-of-34 from the field.
Lipscomb, on the other hand, scored 36 points thanks in large part to Garrison Mathews, who opened the half with 12 points, a rebound and a single turnover.
2. Evan Bradds attacked the paint at the start of the second half
After missing 17 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, Belmont started the second half with three consecutive shot attempts in the paint, all of which were converted by senior forward Evan Bradds.
The field goals not only narrowed Belmont’s deficit to seven points at 39-32, but also set a precedent that they would attack the basket in the second half, which they certainly did.
While the Bruins attempted just one free throw in the first half, they had 17 attempts in the second half, 14 of which they converted.
3. Kenny Cooper was a spark off Lipscomb’s bench
Kenny Cooper was far and away Lipscomb’s top performer off the bench, as he tallied 10 points, three assists, a rebound and a block in 22 minutes of play.
There were several moments in the game when the freshman guard sparked the Bisons’ offensive and defensive efforts, perhaps most so with 7:24 remaining in the first half.
Belmont guard Austin Luke stole a pass, raced down the court, and attempted a layup, when Cooper stuffed the shot and prompted a jump ball.
Excluding the final minutes of regulation and overtime, that moment drew the loudest cheers from fans inside Allen Arena.
“[Cooper] made great plays,” said Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander. “That’s what he can do.”
4. Garrison Mathews drew many fouls but missed a critical free throw late
Lipscomb forward Garrison Mathews was the top performer between both teams on Tuesday night, as he finished the game with 25 points, four rebounds and an assist.
Many of these of his points came from drawing fouls. Mathews was called to the free throw line 18 times during the game, the most among any player. He missed five and made 13.
Although converting 72 percent from the line is solid, Mathews missed a free throw with 5 second remaining in the game, when the score was tied at 65 apiece.
Belmont forward Amanze Egekeze secured the rebound, and Austin Luke’s Hail Mary attempt barely missed the basket, pushing the game to overtime.
“The best thing about Garrison is that he’s an incredible competitor,” said Alexander. “You can see that he wants the ball on every circumstance, and you’ll take that every time. The kid’s a sophomore, and he’s got a real bright future ahead.”
5. Without Luke and Bradds, Taylor Barnette led Bruins in overtime
Within the first two minutes of overtime, two of Belmont’s three leading scorers on the season fouled out — Austin Luke at 4:57 remaining and Evan Bradds at 3:04.
At that point, the Bruins had just a two-point lead (70-68), and the question was who will lead Belmont’s offense?
Taylor Barnette was the answer.
The senior guard, who was 3-of-13 earlier in the night and who has struggled this season, made two three pointers in the final 50 seconds of play to secure Belmont’s win.
Barnette’s second three left 1-second on the game clock, and Kenny Cooper made a final heave across the court, but it did not fall.