The losses have mounted and the numbers have dwindled.
Those who remain on the Lipscomb men’s basketball team, however, aren’t ready to quit.
Down to 11 players — seven of them freshmen — the Bison are hoping to extend a disappointing season by pulling off a first-round upset — and possibly more — in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
Seeded seventh, Lipscomb (13-17, 8-10) plays tournament host and No. 2 Mercer (21-10, 13-5) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Macon, Ga. The Bison head in with some momentum after holding on to win their regular-season finale at Kennesaw State on Saturday, snapping a four-game losing streak.
“We’ve had a lot happen,” Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. “But usually when you have a lot happen you see teams just stop competing. Our guys have competed at a high level and have won several games ... without those guys. It is just says a lot about the kids on our basketball team.”
The top two scorers — senior Jordan Burgason (16.4 ppg) and sophomore Robert Boyd (11.2 ppg) — are no longer on the team. Burgason, the nation’s leading 3-point shooter (52.6 percent), was dismissed from Lipscomb on Feb. 10 for violating school rules. Boyd was ruled academically ineligible in January.
Plus, redshirt-freshman forward Damarius Smith (5.2 ppg) has missed a game and a half due to discipline issues. He did not play in the Bison’s loss at Belmont on Feb. 3. He also sat out the second half of Lipscomb’s win at Kennesaw State on Saturday.
Freshman forward Marvin Williams (4.1 ppg) is out indefinitely with a knee injury and has missed the last four games.
“We got to get everybody on board,” Sanderson said of making a statement with the suspensions and dismissals. “Everybody has to be on board and be on the same page all the time. That’s obviously very, very important to me.”
Only two players remain from last year’s team — senior center Justin Glenn and junior guard Jacob Arnett. Three — Milos Kleut, Zach Brown and Brandon Barnes — transferred in the offseason. Point guard and Springfield native Cory Stanton had transferred to Lipscomb from Clemson in July and was sitting out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. But the sophomore left campus at the end of the fall semester and enrolled at Tennessee as a walk-on.
“Whenever you lose players it can either hurt the team or help the team,” Glenn said. “I think we’re trying as a team to find new ways to be a cohesive unit and try to find new ways in our offense. Jordan was one of the best shooters in the nation. Losing him as made us have to switch our offense up a little bit more.
“It has been tough getting used to that and adjusting. But a lot of the freshmen are hungry to win and they have a strong desire to win.”
• All-A-Sun team announced: Four Belmont players and one Lipscomb freshman were named to All-Atlantic Sun Conference teams. Belmont guard Ian Clark was named the Defensive Player of the Year and joined guards Drew Hanlen and Kerron Johnson on the first team. Belmont center Mick Hedgepeth was named to the second team.
Lipscomb forward Malcolm Smith was tabbed to the All-Freshman Team.