In the most historic game yet in a historic rivalry, Belmont’s men’s basketball team defeated Lipscomb University 74-69 in a seesaw battle that went to overtime, winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament championship and earning Belmont’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament, a/k/a “the Big Dance.”
The Bruins (20-10), tied 31-31 with Lipscomb at halftime and 58-58 at the end of regulation, won the game in overtime on the hot shooting of sophomore guard Justin Hare, who scored a career-high 32 points in the contest, including 10 points in the overtime period.
Fittingly, the game ended with the ball in Hare’s hands as he got a steal on Lipscomb’s final possession and dribbled the ball several times as the clock ran down before tossing it high in the air as the clock ran out. Hare (pictured) won the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
Belmont and Lipscomb, three miles apart on Nashville’s Belmont Boulevard, have been basketball rivals for decades. The intense rivalry, called the “Battle of the Boulevard,” dates to 1953. Both schools’ men’s basketball programs were national powers in the NAIA in the 1980s and 1990s, often competing for Tennessee Collegiate Athletic Conference championships. Belmont moved to NCAA Division I in 1997 and Lipscomb followed three years later. Belmont now is the first to advance to the NCAA tournament.
“The fact that it was the two of us just upped the ante big time,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd told the Associated Press. “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.”
Belmont Bruins Sports has the game stats here. ESPN recaps the game here and has a game photo gallery here.
Bruins Online: Dancing Shoes a Perfect Fit For Bruins
Tennessean: Bruins Go To NCAAs
Atlantic Sun News: Belmont Punches NCAA Dance Card with OT Thriller
The A-Sun has game photos here and here, and post-game press conference audio here.
UPDATES: Additional Belmont News & Media coverage of the Bruins’ reaching the NCAA tournament, and also of the women’s basketball Bruins, top seed in the Atlantic Sun Women’s Basketball Tournament:
Belmont to Host Tournament Bracket Selection Party
Belmont takes aim at A-Sun basketball sweep
The Belmont Stakes
Freshman Phenom Clark Leads A-Sun All-Conference Team
Team on a Mission
“Where the Term Student-Athlete Is Not An Oxymoron”
From the Boulevard to the Big Dance
Women Capture A-Sun Title
Dancing With History
To purchase official Belmont Bruins merchandise, visit the Belmont Bookstore online.