Senior guard Josh Slater was the star with 30 points, but the supporting cast also lent some timely help.
The Bisons, who trailed from the start of the game until the final 4:33 minutes, managed to rally for an 80-76 Atlantic Sun Conference win Monday afternoon at Allen Arena.
“We know we can come back from a deficit,” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “We have shown that a bunch of times.”
The Bisons trailed from the start of the game until they took their first lead at 4:33 of the second half when Brandon Barnes sank a pair of free throws for a 69-68 edge.
The Bisons biggest lead down the stretch was five points, 78-73 with 15 seconds on the clock. North Florida pulled within two, 78-76 as Parker Smith sank three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point shot attempt.
Senior guard Josh Slater connected on two free throws to close out the game.
“Josh stepped up and made big shots and big free throws,” Sanderson said. “The thing I am most proud of is he didn’t lose his focus and effort defensively. We needed his shot-making and free throws but his defensive focus and sustained energy were what I liked seeing the most. He did a great job.”
North Florida shot a sizzling 64 percent from the field in the first half. Their biggest lead of the game was 12 points with 8:54 left in the first half.
“I thought in the second half we stepped up defensively holding them to eight field goals and 35 percent,” Sanderson said. “We turned the ball over eight times. You can win a lot of games doing that.
“But I think more than anything in the last five or six minutes we executed in our half-court offense. We got shots from people we wanted to get shots from. That’s something we have not done.”
The Bisons held a 24-17 advantage in free throws made. Slater, with a season-high and game-high 30 points, scored 15 at the free throw line. Slater also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
Senior center Adnan Hodzic scored 14 points for the Bisons. Sophomore guard Jacob Arnett added 12.
“They had a bunch of guys around Adnan.” Sanderson said. “The problem in the first half was that he was catching the ball on the block.
“When you catch the ball on the block you have to maneuver and dribble. He doesn’t have time to dribble. People are collapsing on him and double-teaming and triple-teaming him. He has to get the ball at the bucket because there is no way to double team that.”
The Bisons held a 34-28 edge in rebounds.
Sanderson credited sophomore center Milos Kleut, Arnett, Barnes and senior forward Brandon Brown for their support.
“Milos came in and gave us a huge spark with his energy,” Sanderson said. “Jacob Arnett gave us a huge lift the whole game. Brandon Barnes had some big drives to the basket. And Brandon Brown had some great energy.
“Sometimes you have to win an ugly game like that to get going. We needed this game desperately.”
Parker Smith, with a team-leading 16 points, was one of four players scoring in double figures for North Florida. Andres Diaz and Jimmy Williams each had 13. Jerron Granberry added 11.
Thursday night the Bisons make the short trip to Belmont for the first “Battle of the Boulevard” of the season.
The Bisons are 9-6, 4-2 in the A-Sun. North Florida, which has only won one time in six games at Allen Arena, slipped to 5-11, 2-3 in the conference.
Sanderson is still waiting for his Bisons to put everything together for 40 minutes.
“We are not playing very good,” Sanderson said. “And I am not taking anything away from North Florida at all. North Florida is a tough and physical team.
“Sometimes you get in one of those funks on both ends of the court. Hopefully tonight we got out of that a little bit. We can’t be accused of peaking early because that is not happening.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.