Late Comeback Attempt Falls Short for Norse
Malcolm Smith scored 21 points, including the game-clinching basket with 10 seconds remaining, as Lipscomb held off a furious Northern Kentucky rally and pulled out a 75-74 victory Friday night in an Atlantic Sun Conference game.
Lipscomb held a 13-point lead (66-53) with 3:48 remaining in the game, but Northern Kentucky used full-court pressure that forced four turnovers to ignite an 18-7 run. Tyler White's basket with 43 seconds left capped the spurt and cut the Lipscomb lead to 73-71.
Northern Kentucky fouled Carter Sanderson with 31 seconds remaining, and he missed both free throws to give the Norse a chance to either tie or take the lead. Cole Murray, however, missed a 3-point attempt and Sanderson grabbed the rebound.
Sanderson passed ahead to Martin Smith, who fed an open Malcolm Smith for a layup that extended the Lipscomb advantage to 75-71 with 10 seconds remaining. Todd Johnson buried a 3-pointer as time expired to account for the final margin.
Jordan Jackson scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Northern Kentucky, which is 8-13 overall, 4-5 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Murray equaled his career-high scoring total with 17 points, including five 3-point field goals.
Martin Smith added 15 points for Lipscomb, which is 8-12 overall, 3-6 in the A-Sun. The Bisons held on to the win despite shooting 22-for-41 at the free-throw line and committing 20 turnovers.
"It was a strange game tonight. It didn't feel like we could get in any flow offensively or defensively," Norse head coach Dave Bezold said. "It seemed like we would have a couple of plays with the momentum going our way, but then we would go flat again. It was an ugly game. The last two minutes were exciting, I suppose. We actually had a little energy and made some things happen. I thought the biggest issues were one, poor clock management in the first half - gave them two free points that would loom large at the end – and then free-throw block out. I've never before in my life seen what happened to us tonight, and it was my fault.
"We obviously didn't have the right scheme, and it didn't matter who was on the floor for us, every one of them gave up a free throw because we didn't pay attention to detail how we were supposed to do it exactly right every time. Those were the things that cost us the game."
Jalen Billups added 12 points and six rebounds for Northern Kentucky, which shot 41.3 percent from the field. The Norse won the rebounding battle by a 37-36 count but gave up several offensive boards after missed free throws late in the game.
Lipscomb shot 57.9 percent from the field in the first half to build a 35-31 lead at the break. Martin Smith scored 12 points in the first half, while Malcom Smith and Khion Sankey added eight points apiece.
"Every home game we seem to fall behind by double figures," Bezold said. "We haven't been able to be consistent with what we do. At home we get away with it, tonight we didn't. On the road, we don't get away with it, and we lose this game by 15 or 20. We're fortunate to have good crowds and some energy that way. We've been lucky at home because we're not good enough with the basketball at times, we're not, defensively, even close to being good enough. Lipscomb shot almost 60 percent tonight in the first half. Last time Kennesaw State shot almost 70 percent in the first half. So those are the frustrating points about this team that we just haven't been able to get ironed out."
The Norse are now 64-15 all-time in The Bank of Kentucky Center. Lipscomb is 4-2 all-time against Northern Kentucky.
Northern Kentucky travels to Florida next week for games against North Florida (Thursday) and Jacksonville (Saturday).