JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) -- Talk about bragging rights.
Belmont left the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament with its
first ever NCAA bid and championship trophy on Saturday after
beating crosstown rival Lipscomb 74-69 in overtime.
Neither team had been to the NCAA tournament, but they were very
familiar with each other since their campuses are only miles apart
The reward of an NCAA bid only raised the stakes in the "Battle
of the Boulevard" series that dates to 1953.
Lipscomb (21-10) and Belmont (20-10) tied for the regular season
title, but Lipscomb earned the No. 1 seed by a tiebreaker. It was
only fitting the championship game would go into overtime.
"The fact that it was the two of us just upped the ante big
time," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said.
"If we'd been playing Gardner-Webb or East Tennessee State we
would have wanted to win bad, but we wouldn't have gone home and
listened to who won for two weeks and naturally so. And they didn't
want to have to do it either."
The players compared it to the Tobacco Road series between Duke
and North Carolina.
"It's a big rivalry, but this is a smaller scale," Belmont's
Josh Goodwin said.
Justin Hare scored 10 of his career-high 32 points to lead
Belmont as the tournament's most valuable player.
Hare also got a steal on Lipscomb's final possession and
dribbled the ball several times as the clock ran down before he
flung it high in the air at the buzzer.
"As the game went on I just tried to find ways to help our team
win. Luckily I had my best game at the most important time. It's a
great feeling," Hare said.
The game went into overtime after it was tied three times in the
The Bisons took a 58-55 lead when James Poindexter hit a 3 with
27.7 seconds to go, but Hare drove the lane for a layup and was
fouled. He converted the three-point play, and it was tied at 58
with 20.7 left. Neither team could score again in regulation.
In overtime, the sophomore guard led the Bruins. Boomer Herndon
scored Belmont's first basket, and Hare had another driving layup
to put Belmont up 62-58 with four minutes left. The Bruins never
Goodwin and Brian Collins added 10 points apiece for Belmont.
Eddie Ard led Lipscomb with 19 points while Poindexter and
LaKory Daniel each scored 13.
"They made the plays necessary down the stretch and that's what
you've got to do," Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said.
Belmont and Lipscomb had not met in a conference championship
game since they played for the NAIA's Tennessee Collegiate Athletic
Conference title, which the Bisons won.
Belmont moved to NCAA Division I in 1997, and Lipscomb moved up
"We've never backed down from who we've played in the whole
time we've been in Division I. We've played a lot of good teams.
We've lost by 40 and 50 a couple of times," Byrd said.
And the Bruins weren't intimidated by the prospects of playing
some of the top teams in the country like Duke or Connecticut.
"Bring them on," Collins said.
And then Byrd injected, "Obviously I didn't talk to my guys
before we came in here."
"We're glad to be one of the teams playing one of those
teams," he said.
The teams were playing for the third time this season. Lipscomb
won the first game 97-85 on Jan. 20, and Belmont won 81-65 on Jan.
But the season's not over for Lipscomb. The Bisons are off to
the NIT under new rules adopted for the tournament that allows all
regular-season champions to get a bid.
"It's going to take us a day or so to come to grips with what's
going on, but we're excited," Sanderson said. "I think it's a