Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard goes up for a shot against Lipscomb. (Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
The East Tennessee State basketball team had to chase the whole way Thursday night against Lipscomb.
When the Bucs finally caught the Bison in the final minute, they needed one more stop to have a chance to win. They couldn’t get it.
Freshman guard J.C. Hampton swished a 12-foot floater with three seconds left as Lipscomb got its first Atlantic Sun Conference victory of the season, 82-80, in yet another thriller between the teams.
“Lipscomb is a very good offensive team,” said ETSU coach Murry Bartow, “but I felt like if we could get stops, we’d win. We couldn’t get stops. We threw everything we had at them and they shot 55 percent and scored 82.”
The loss ended a six-game home winning streak for the Bucs, who evened their season record at 8-8. They’re 1-2 in the conference heading into Saturday’s home contest against Northern Kentucky.
The Bison improved to 6-10, 1-4 after some near misses in the last couple of weeks.
“This is huge for our team,” said coach Casey Alexander, who is in his first season at Lipscomb after spending the last two at Stetson. “We had lost four in a row, and three were winnable in the last 30 seconds. I’m proud that we virtually led wire-to-wire tonight.”
Trailing by nine with just over two minutes left, the Bucs had tied the game on a steal and Jalen Riley layup with 34 seconds left. That gave the Bison the rest of the clock to work for a shot, and Hampton dribbled most of it away on top before breaking free off a screen and lofting a soft shot from just inside the paint. It hit nothing but net, giving him 13 points for the night.
The Bison shot 58 percent from the field, including 63 in the second half. They made half of their 22 attempts from 3-point range.
The Bucs certainly had few answers for Martin Smith early, or Josh Williams late.
Smith buried six 3-pointers in the first half as Lipscomb moved out to a 42-32 lead; he finished with 21. In the second half, Williams put on a show.
Fighting a stomach bug that had limited him to a bowl of soup in the last two days, the 6-4 freshman erupted for 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting. He scored 25 of those in the second half, including 12 in a row during one stretch.
“He’s good … it seemed like he couldn’t miss anything and he got on a roll,” said Rashawn Rembert, who led the Bucs with 24 points. “Same with the other guy. They looked like pros out there, making shots left and right.”
Williams was averaging less than 10 points a game for the season, but he seems to be figuring the college game out very quickly. He had tossed in 28 points in the Bison’s previous game against Jacksonville.
“I’ve gotta give it up to the coaching staff and my teammates,” said Williams. “They’ve been working me in practice.”
The Bucs didn’t work him too hard. He lit them up on a variety of moves – 3-pointers, dunks and mid-range jumpers.
Rembert didn’t think his team was ready to make a defensive stand right from the start. When Smith hit a 3-pointer less than two minutes into the contest, Lipscomb had the lead and would hold it until the final minute.
The Bucs looked like they were suffering a hangover from the 73-63 loss at Mercer three nights earlier.
“We came out real lackadaisical,” said Rembert. “It didn’t seem like we wanted to play. It was tough to get stops, and that was key to the whole game. The last three minutes we got some stops, but the last shot was a dagger.”
Rembert came into the contest second in the A-Sun in 3-pointers made, with 40, and the junior guard added five more to his total.
Riley keyed the late run by the Bucs, scoring 14 of his 17 points in the last nine minutes. He made four 3-pointers.
Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard finished with 15 points and six assists, while Hunter Harris chipped in with 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Bucs shot 39 percent from the field, launching 31 of their 69 shots from behind the arc. They made 10.
“That was obviously an emotional, tough loss,” said Bartow. “We were playing an uphill battle the whole way.”