Jordan Burgason did not exactly call his shot.
What he said Monday afternoon was, “I have a good feeling about [Tuesday].”
A little more than 24 hours later the junior swingman made more than his share of shots and helped Lipscomb rally for a 73-64 victory over Belmont. Burgason connected on four 3-pointers (on seven attempts), the last of which doubled a three-point lead to six with 67 seconds to play and ultimately put the game out of reach.
With that triumph, the Bisons not only ruined the Bruins’ perfect Atlantic Sun Conference record, they continued on a positive path, the first steps down which they took fewer than two weeks earlier.
To most, Tuesday’s contest was a complete reversal from the season’s first meeting between the neighborhood rivals, an 88-52 Belmont victory on its home floor. For the Bisons, the turnaround actually took place in the minutes and hours following their lopsided loss to the Bruins on Jan. 13.
“That was an opportunity for our team to go in two directions,” senior guard Josh Slater said. “We could have either thrown in the towel, folded it up because our pride was hurt or we could have bounced back. Everyone on our team definitely responded.”
Lipscomb, the preseason pick of many to win the conference title, now has won consecutive games for the first time since mid-December. Two days before the victory over Belmont, it allowed just four first-half field goals in a 21-point romp at USC Upstate.
Coach Scott Sanderson said the loss to Belmont served as motivation for everyone involved with the program — particularly the players — to reexamine and redefine their respective roles.
“One of the things we, as coaches, ask ourselves a lot is ‘Do we think we deserve to win this game?’” Sanderson said. “The way we’d been playing [leading up to the first meeting] — at that point we weren’t playing particularly well and they were playing very, very well. So, did we deserve to win that game? The answer was probably not. You saw the result.
“Our players deserve a lot of credit for how they’ve responded. … We’ve learned a lot about our team.”
The Bisons (12-8, 7-4 in the A-Sun) have nine conference games remaining, beginning Friday against Stetson. They are alone in third place in the conference standings, three games behind Belmont and two behind East Tennessee State, which they host in the final contest before the conference tournament.
“As easy as it is to get consumed with wins and losses, we just try to focus on taking it a day at a time and getting better,” Slater said. “We feel like if we lose a game but we get better, then that’s part of our process and part of our journey.”
As it turns out, the loss to Belmont might end up as a significant moment of this season.
“We were all hurt,” Burgason said. “We were all kind of in a little shock, but at the same time the coaches did a good job of boosting our morale. … Just knowing that the coaches weren’t sulking about the loss was definitely motivating for us and helped us move forward as well.”
Whatever good feeling he had Monday no doubt paled in comparison to his emotions the following night.