Threes were a breeze for Jordan Burgason against East Tennessee State.
Lipscomb’s senior guard made three 3-pointers in the first three minutes and went on to a career-high 33 points Saturday as the Bisons snapped the Bucs’ five-game winning streak, 73-65.
Burgason came into the contest shooting over 51 percent from behind the arc, and he certainly didn’t hurt his average by hitting 9 of 13 against the Bucs. Those first three shots got him going.
“When one hit the top of the backboard and bounced in,” he said, “I knew it was going to be a good night.”
It still wasn’t easy for the Bisons, who had lost 10 of their last 12 games against the Bucs, most of them tightly contested. They led 39-30 at the half, then had to weather a 7½-minute drought that left them trailing 51-44 with 10 minutes left.
Instead of folding, Burgason and company went back to work.
Burgason buried three more 3-pointers in less than two minutes, the last one giving the Bisons the lead for good, 59-56, with 5:44 to play. Three times the Bucs cut the lead to one, but they couldn’t muster much offense when they had to have it.
Lipscomb was able to make 4 of 8 free throws in the final minute to hold them off. It was the Bucs’ first home loss in seven games this season.
“Lipscomb is a good team, and obviously we didn’t have an answer for Burgason, right from the get-go,” said ETSU coach Murry Bartow.
The loss, in front of a crowd of 4,348, came on a day when the Atlantic Sun Conference race tightened.
Front-running Belmont lost by 10 at South Carolina Upstate and fell into a tie with Mercer, at 6-2. ETSU, Lipscomb and Upstate are all 5-3.
Belmont will visit the Dome on Monday night.
The Bruins are another team that thrives with their outside shooting, but they surely won’t have a more deadly weapon than Burgason.
Asked how the 6-3 native of Ames, Iowa rates with other shooters he’s been around, Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson didn’t hesitate.
“Best shooter I’ve ever coached,” he said. “As long as he can see the rim, there’s a good chance it’s going in. He thinks they’re all going in.”
Burgason surpassed his previous career high of 31 points, set two years ago against Mercer, and matched the nine 3-pointers he made earlier this season on familiar turf, at Iowa State.
That sweet stroke has been cultivated in the late hours in Lipscomb’s gym. Burgason says he typically shoots anywhere from “300 to a thousand” jumpers in solitary workouts.
“I like going to the gym at 10 or 11 o’clock at night, just me,” he said. “The lights are turned down and there’s peace and quiet. I get my work in.”
Good as he was Saturday, Burgason wasn’t a one-man show for the Bisons.
Freshman guard Martin Smith came up huge after the Bucs made their run in the second half, scoring 12 of his 17 points. The dagger was a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left. The Bucs had just cut the Lipscomb lead to one on a dunk by Isiah Brown.
Smith had four threes as the Bisons went 15 of 26 from behind the arc.
It looked for awhile like Jarvis Jones would be the hero.
With the Bucs struggling to make anything from the outside and trailing by 10, the junior guard triggered a 17-0 run with a teardrop in the lane and a pair of 3-pointers. The Bucs had made only 1 of their first 16 shots from long range.
Jones added another three in the run as the ETSU lead swelled to seven.
“That gave us some momentum,” said Jones, who finished with a career-high 18 points. “It comes down to guys making plays, and they made the most plays.”
Tommy Hubbard collected 14 points, 10 rebounds and three steals for the Bucs, and he spent a good bit of energy trying to check Burgason on the defensive end. Sheldon Cooley chipped in with 10 points -- all in the second half.
It was an off night for Adam Sollazzo, the team’s leading scorer. He managed just six points on 2-for-14 shooting after scoring at least 18 in the last nine games.
Sollazzo did have six assists and eight rebounds from his point-guard position.
As a team, ETSU shot 37 percent from the field, including 5 of 25 on 3-pointers. While the Bisons bombed away, the Bucs just seemed to throw the ball up and go get it.
They coralled 24 offensive rebounds – and ruled the glass 46-33 overall; Brown had 13 – but weren’t able to cash many in for second-chance points.
“I don’t think any team in the country has ever given up 24 offensive rebounds, and you saw that today,” said Sanderson. “But I was proud of the guys, how they hung in and battled back.”
Said Bartow, “When you don’t shoot the ball well, you don’t look good. We had a lot of naked, clean shots that didn’t go down. At the other end, they made some big threes late that really hurt us.”