Nine games into the season and the Lipscomb women’s basketball team already has as many wins as it did all of last year.
During the 2009-10 campaign, the Bisons went just 5-26 and had a 12-game losing streak. After an offseason which included scrimmaging against players from Tennessee State and Vanderbilt, Lipscomb appears to have turned a corner – at least early in the season.
Heading into Wednesday night’s road game against South Alabama, the Bisons were off to a 5-4 start this season, including 2-0 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, and on a three-game winning streak.
“It looked like they were a little more dedicated,” Lipscomb coach Frank Bennett said. “We really hoped and thought it was possible. Breaking through the barrier of a losing mentality is probably part of it. I think the team is starting to believe that they can and should win.”
Last year, Lipscomb went through growing pains with a young team and just one senior.
“The leadership wasn’t quite as good,” Bennett said. “I think we just got a niche now there this year.”
The Bisons have three seniors this season with Independence grad Jenna Bartsokas leading the way with 15.1 points a game. Junior guard Anna Bowers averages 15.6 points a game to go along with 5.1 rebounds a game.
Bowers, an Ensworth alum, has made dramatic improvements in her shooting to propel her to becoming the team’s leading scorer, according to Bennett.
“I think it sort of clicked for her,” he said. “She has always had the ability to create her shot with her quickness and quick release. But she is shooting it more accurately and more confidently.”
Lipscomb will get tested over the next couple weeks, though. After playing six of their first nine games at home, the Bisons have four straight on the road. After Wednesday night’s game at South Alabama, the Lady Bisons play at Miami on New Year’s Day. They then jump back into conference play with matchups at Stetson (Jan. 3) and Florida Gulf Coast (Jan. 5).
• A-Sun Player of the Week: Belmont junior center Scott Saunders was named the Atlantic Sun Conference’s Player of the Week, the league announced Tuesday.
The 6-foot-10 native of New Orleans averaged a team-high 12.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in victories over Kennesaw State, Troy and Alabama State last week. He recorded his first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and had four blocks, against Kennesaw State last Thursday.
Belmont (9-2) will get its second shot to knock of No. 19 Tennessee when the Bruins travel to Knoxville for a 6:30 p.m. start on Thursday. Belmont lost to the Volunteers 85-76 in the opening game of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 16. The Bruins rallied from 17 points down and had two chances to tie the game in the final minute.
Belmont might be catching the Volunteers at the right time. After starting 7-0, Tennessee has dropped it last three games. The Volunteers fell to visiting Southern California 65-64 on Tuesday night. They lost 49-48 at Charlotte last Thursday and Oakland started the skid when it handed then-No. 7 Tennessee an 89-82 loss on Dec. 14.
• TSU stays hot: Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, the nation’s top rebounder, got his numbers. But the Tennessee State men’s basketball team got the win.
Faried entered Sunday’s game at TSU averaging 13.7 rebounds. He improved on that average with 17 rebounds, along with 15 points against the Tigers. That was fine with Tennessee State, which held the rest of Morehead State in check for a 70-64 overtime victory.
The Tigers scored 26 points off 22 Morehead State turnovers. Kenny Moore led TSU with 19 points.
It was a big win for TSU considering Morehead State was picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference prior to the season. The Tigers, however, were picked to finish seventh. With a 62-49 home victory against Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday night, Tennessee State won its fifth straight and improved to 6-6 and 3-1 in conference play. Robert Covington scored 22 points against Eastern Kentucky and the Tigers don’t play next until Dec. 29 at Middle Tennessee State.
• Former Trevecca standout dies: Former Trevecca Nazarene baseball player Billy (William Lonnie) Miles died on Saturday after a year-long bout with cancer.
Miles pitched at Trevecca for two years after transferring from Gulf Coast Community College. He had a career record of 13-6, with one save and had 114 strikeouts in 158.2 innings pitched. He was a graduate of East High School in Nashville.
“Billy was a great friend from the time we were kids,” former Trevecca teammate Kenny Thomas said. “He was a competitor on the mound and loved the game of baseball.”
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m., Jan. 8 at Hendersonville Church of Christ. There will be a visitation from 4-9 p.m. on Jan. 7 and noon-4 p.m. on Jan. 8. Condolences may be sent to Billy Miles Family, 205 Morningview Court, Goodlettsville, TN 37072.
• MTSU pair makes Sun Belt’s anniversary team: Two former Middle Tennessee State football players were named to the Sun Belt Conference’s 10-year anniversary team.
Brandon Westbrook (2001-03) was named to the offense and Jeff Littlejohn (2002-05) was tabbed for the defense.
Westbrook, an offensive lineman, is only player in Middle Tennessee State history to be selected first team All-Sun Belt three years in a row. He started 43 games and played at center, left tackle, right tackle and left guard.
Littlejohn, a defensive lineman, was the Blue Raiders first defensive player of the year since 1992 when he earned the honor in 2005. He finished with 34 career tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and a blocked field goal.
MTSU was also recognized three times each of the league’s top 10 moments and plays in the last 10 years. For the complete list, visit sunbeltsports.org.