For Drew Hanlen, this wasn’t just the last time Belmont would face Lipscomb in the regular season as Atlantic Sun Conference rivals.
It was his final Battle of the Boulevard. And the Belmont senior shot like there was no tomorrow.
Hanlen scorched Lipscomb with seven 3-pointers and 21 points — both career-highs — and ledthe Bruins to an 84-58 rout on Friday night on the road in front of 5,387 — the second-largest crowd in Allen Arena history.
“Obviously, there is extra incentive just because it was Lipscomb and this was the last battle I am going to get to play in with this atmosphere,” said Hanlen, who scored 15 points in the first half. “It was really special. I didn’t want to miss.”
For nearly 35 minutes — and from long range — he didn’t. Hanlen drained his first seven 3-point attempts before he missed twice in the final five minutes. In two games against Lipscomb this season, he made 10-of-14 3-pointers.
“He got open looks,” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “We went under his ball screens early on. He jumped up and made several of them. Then we tried to make an adjustment and go over the top of him. But he jumped up and made some shots. He played awful well tonight.”
Belmont, which is heading to the Ohio Valley Conference next season, split the season series and beat Lipscomb in at Allen Arena for the first time since Jan. 12, 2008. The Bruins (17-7, 10-2) had lost five of six overall against Lipscomb (11-13, 6-6).
Four players scored in double figures for Belmont, with Ian Clark adding 15, reserve Scott Saunders chipping in 11 and Blake Jenkins scoring 10. Malcolm Smith led Lipscomb with 14. Martin Smith had 12 and Deonte Alexander scored 10 off the bench.
The Bison started strong, scoring the first four points and making four of their first five shots to grab a 10-7 lead. But they made just 6-of-25 the rest of the half and finished shooting just 37.7 percent.
Belmont settled in, though, as J.J. Mann found Saunders open under the basket for back-to-back scores. That gave Belmont an 11-10 lead but it was just the start of what would turnout to be a 33-9 run. Mann sunk a jumper to precede a 3-pointer by Clark and back-to-back treys by Hanlen. This capped off 15 straight points by the Bruins for a 22-10 lead and led to a Lipscomb timeout with 10:48 left.
It didn’t stop the bleeding.
Over the next five minutes, Belmont hit three more 3-pointers, including two more by Hanlen, to stake a 40-19 lead.
“It was definitely deflating,” Malcolm Smith said. “I think we just relaxed back a little bit and they got on a run. We didn’t respond very well to their run.”
The teams entered the game leading the conference with 8.2 3-pointers per game. Lipscomb has just one at the break and finished with six. By halftime, Belmont surpassed its average, hitting nine. The Bruins finished shooting 12-of-27 (44.4 percent) against a Bison squad that ranked second in the Atlantic Sun in 3-point defense (31.8 percent).
Lipscomb came out in the second half and made some 3-pointers within the opening four minutes. The Bison, looking reenergized, pulled within 14 with 11:26 left.
It was a familiar situation as, last month against Belmont, the Bison rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit to shock the Bruins. In fact, in each of Lipscomb’s last three wins in the series, it had overcome double-digit, second-half deficits.
Not this time.
Belmont rattled off 10 straight points and took a 73-49 lead. After Mick Hedgepeth hit two free throws, Hanlen hit his first 3-pointer of the second half. Then the Bruins grabbed three straight offensive rebounds extending the possession long enough for Saunders to get a layup, which Sanderson called a “back-breaker.”
Hanlen capped off the spurt with his final 3-pointer — this one contested.
“I told our guys that the clock was irrelevant [Friday]. We had to play defense without even looking at the clock,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. “I obviously don’t like the fact in our last three losses we have lost double-figure leads to them in the second half. There is nothing I like about it but, as far as I can tell, it is random. So I didn’t mention it to this team. We just talked about the task at hand.
“Though Lipscomb did some nice things in the second half and did enough to put a scare in us, I didn’t think we ever let up defensively.”