NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Behind strong team defense and a career-high 21 points from senior Drew Hanlen (St. Louis, Mo.), Belmont men's basketball defeated Lipscomb, 84-58, Friday night.
The top two scoring teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference embraced an uptempo affair. After surrendering the game's first four points to Malcolm Smith, Belmont quickly worked into some of its most impressive and unselfish play of the season.
In fact, back-to-back three-pointers from Hanlen capped a 15-0 Belmont run and gave the Bruins a 22-10 lead with 10:51 left in the first half.
Despite foul trouble for the game's three primary big men - Belmont's Mick Hedgepeth (Crossville, Ala.) and Saunders and Lipscomb's Justin Glenn - the Bruins continued to find scoring opportunities by working inside-out.
A series of four three-pointers - one from junior Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.), two from Hanlen, and a final one from sophomore J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) - in a two minute span increased the Belmont lead to 40-19 with 6:01 left in the first half.
Following a Lipscomb timeout, Belmont got consecutive layins from Johnson, Saunders, and sophomore Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) to maintain the momentum gained.
A driving basket by Mann towards the end of the half helped send the Bruins to the locker room up 22, 51-29.
All told, Belmont shot 63 percent (19-for-30) from the field - including 9-for-17 from three-point distance. The Bruins handed out 12 assists on 19 made field goals, while limiting the host Bison to 33 percent shooting.
Hanlen led Belmont with 15 first half points on 5-for-5 three-point shooting.
A Bruin turnover and a Jacob Arnett three-pointer was a less-than pleasing way to open the second half, but the Bruins remained locked in defensively and on the backboards.
A tip-in from Jenkins and a wing three-pointer from Clark pushed the lead back out to 56-34 with 18:33 left.
Strong play from Martin and Malcolm Smith enabled Lipscomb to cut into the Bruin lead somewhat. A Zavion Williams floater and a Malcolm Smith basket got the Bison within 63-49 with 11:26 left.
But with the partisan Allen Arena crowd hoping to make its presence felt, Belmont tightened the defensive pressure and responded.
The Bruins proceeded to hold the Bison scoreless over the next five minutes, with Hanlen providing two more three-pointers during a clutch 11-0 run. One Jenkins free throw capped the spurt and gave Belmont a 74-49 lead with 7:25 left.
Acrobatic tip-ins from Jenkins and freshman Reece Chamberlain (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) highlighted the penultimate stretch, as Hanlen at last saw his string of seven consecutive three-pointers go by boards.
A driving layin from freshman Holden Mobley (Nashville, Tenn.) provided the final margin.
All told, Belmont shot 53 percent (31-for-59) from the field - including 12-for-27 from three-point distance. The Bruins outrebounded Lipscomb, 41-28, and held the Bison to 37 percent shooting.
Hanlen led four Bruins in double figures with a career-high 21 points. Clark added 15 points and four assists. Saunders had 11 points, and Jenkins 10.
Malcolm Smith scored 14 points for Lipscomb (11-13, 6-6 Atlantic Sun).
Belmont (17-7, 10-2 Atlantic Sun) returns to action Monday, Feb. 6 against Austin Peay in non-conference play. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center.
The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. Live video streaming will be available via ASun.TV.