Belmont and Lipscomb meet for Atlantic Sun Tournament title
(Sports Network) - A couple of local rivals shoot for their first-ever Atlantic Sun Tournament championship today, as the Belmont Bruins clash with the Lipscomb Bisons in the finals from the Memorial Center in Johnson City, Tennessee. The winner of today's game will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The two schools tied for the regular season title with a league record of 15-5, but Lipscomb was awarded the top seed due to the tie- break scenario. The Bisons opened the tournament with a 78-62 victory over eighth-seeded Mercer before topping fourth-seeded Gardner-Webb, 70-51, in the semifinals on Friday. Lipscomb, which had lost its only previous game in the A-Sun Tournament coming into this year's event, has now won four straight contests en route to a 21-9 overall mark.
As for Belmont, it earned its spot in the finals with wins over seventh-seeded Campbell (90-76) and most recently sixth-seeded Stetson (72-59) on Friday. With the victories, the Bruins improved to 19-10 overall and pulled to an even 4-4 all-time in this event. Belmont and Lipscomb are long-time local rivals and the series between the two teams has been dubbed as the "Battle of the Boulevard." The two schools used to battle each other for conference championships in the NAIA, but this time around the stakes are considerably higher. Lipscomb leads the all-time series with Belmont, 66-46, with the team's splitting a pair of games during the regular season.
Belmont is well known through the A-Sun for its ability to light up the scoreboard, as it enters the championship game averaging a healthy 82.1 ppg behind 50.0 percent shooting from the floor and 38.3 percent from long distance. Justin Hare currently leads the team in scoring at 15.3 ppg and he is making good on 38.3 percent of his long-range attempts. Boomer Herndon his hot on his heels with 15.1 ppg and he is also ripping down a team-high 7.6 rpg. Josh Goodwin chips in with 12.6 ppg for the Bruins, while Brian Collins adds 10.9 ppg and team-highs of 4.5 apg and 50 steals.
Belmont stepped up on defense, holding Stetson to a dismal 33.9 percent shooting effort from the floor in a 72-59 victory in the semifinals on Friday. The Bruins, themselves, hit 43.1 percent from the field and made good on 7-of-17 three-pointers and 21-of-29 free throws. Herndon and Goodwin each turned in 15 points to lead Belmont, while Hare chipped in with 12 points.
Lipscomb has taken a different route than Belmont this season, getting the job done with solid defense, as it is allowing a league-low 66.6 ppg. At the other end, the Bisons are netting 72.9 ppg on 44.9 percent shooting from the floor. Eddie Ard currently leads the team in scoring at 16.2 ppg and he is also pulling down 5.3 rpg. Brian Fisk has produced as well, turning in 16.1 ppg, 3.1 apg and 56 steals. James Poindexter rounds out the unit's double-figure scorers with 12.2 ppg.
Lipscomb forced 14 turnovers and held Gardner-Webb to a lackluster 32.2 percent shooting effort from the floor in a 70-51 triumph in semifinal-round action. The Bisons dropped 42.6 percent of their total shots, including an 8- of-19 effort from beyond the arc. Fisk paced the club with 13 points and five steals, while Ard tallied 10 points and eight boards in the winning effort.
03/04 10:51:06 ET
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