Thursday, March 03, 2011MACON, Ga. The road to the NCAA Tournament goes through here just like the trains that pass travel the railroads here at all hours of the day and night.
The Lipscomb Bisons weren’t prematurely counting on a drive to the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship and the automatic NCAA berth they had been seeking since the first day of practice. But while almost every game is in doubt until the final buzzer they also didn’t count on Mercer to derail their plans in the quarterfinals Thursday night in the nightcap of the A-Sun Tournament .
Mercer, the No. 5 seed stopped the Bisons, the No. 4 seed, 73-63 on Mercer''s home court here at the University Center. It was the second loss by the Bisons to Mercer in the last six days. The Bisons lost their regular season finale here 68-67 Feb. 26.
Ironically, the last time a No. 4 seed beat a No. 5 seed was in 2009 when Lipscomb beat Campbell 82-52.
This is the second year in a row the Bisons have lost in the first round.
The Bisons struggled to get any sort of inside game going. Only 11 of their 19 field goals were made inside the three-point arc. Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson had been stressing consistency in practice, but he did not see it against Mercer.
“We started out battling in the second half, but we never put enough quality possessions back-to-back offensively or defensively,” Sanderson said. “That has what has plagued us all season long. We haven’t put consecutive possessions together back-to-back on either end of the court.”
Center Adnan Hodzic, playing his last game for the Bisons, only had two points and two rebounds in the first half. He finished with nine points, but did grab a game-high seven rebounds.
Guard Jordan Burgason kept the Bisons in the game, hitting four of his nine three-point attempts.
“Mercer played very well,” Sanderson said. “They took away our inside presence. That’s why we took so many threes the first half.
“We got some good looks in the first half. Brian Wright and Michael Teller had seven great looks at the basket but they just couldn’t make them."
The Bisons started out hot hitting a trio of three-points to take a 9-6 lead. Guard Josh Slater, Burgason and guard Jacob Arnett each scored from beyond the arc.
But Mercer pulled ahead 11-9 and never trailed in the game again. At the half the Bears held a 38-27 edge as Langston Hall hit jumper with one second left.
“I felt like our guys battled the whole time, but the last two minutes of the first half really hurt us,” Sanderson said. “It was 31-27 and they scored seven straight points.”
Mercer capitalized at the free throw line, hitting 24-of-26, a 92.3 success rate. The Bisons hit 17-of-27, a 63 percent rate.
“They made the free throws down the stretch,” Sanderson said. “We cut it to seven at one point in the second half, but we could never get it to a workable margin. They kept us at bay by hitting all of the free throws.”
From the field Mercer shot 43.1 percent while the Bisons hit at a 33.9 percent rate.
The Bears also held a seven-rebound advantage on the boards, 39-32, while the Bisons had a 12-11 edge in offensive rebounds.
“We didn’t execute and they did,” Slater said. “We missed 10 free throws, and I missed five, and they missed two. If you are going to win the conference tournament you can’t shoot 63 percent from the line like we did.
“They also out-rebounded us. You are not going to win, especially on a team’s home court, if you control those stats.”
Slater led the Bisons with 18 points as he also played his last college game. Burgason finished with 15.
The Bisons finished the season with a 17-13 record.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.
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