NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Senior Taylor Barnette (Lexington, Ky.) sank a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left in overtime to lift Belmont University men's basketball to a 78-76 victory overtime Lipscomb Tuesday night.
Just one week earlier, Belmont won in equally dramatic fashion, on senior Evan Bradds' (Jamestown, Ohio) length-of-the-floor pass to sophomore Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) for the game-winning basket with 0.4 seconds remaining.
With Belmont coming off an inspired road victory at Pepperdine, and Lipscomb playing some of its most united and determined basketball under head coach Casey Alexander, another captivating Battle of the Boulevard installment was expected.
And more plot twists and high drama would be in store.
Both teams labored out of the gates, each limited to one field goal in the opening four minutes.
But as the Bruins once again struggled to find an offensive rhythm, Lipscomb seized a 13-4 lead on a conventional 3-point play from Garrison Mathews.
After a basket from junior Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill.) and a 3-pointer from freshman Michael Benkert (Greenwood, Ind.) got the Bruins going, Eli Pepper capped a 9-0 Bison run to increase the margin to 13, 22-9, at the 10:02 mark.
It was eerily reminiscent of the Nov. 29 contest at the Curb Event Center - Belmont inexplicably rimming out clean, open looks from behind the arc.
But baskets from Bradds, Barnette and Egekeze closed the gap to 22-16 with 7:43 left in the half.
More stingy defense and interior baskets from Bradds and Windler made the score 26-23 at the 2:24 mark.
But five straight points from Nathan Moran pushed the Lipscomb margin back out to 10.
The Bruins appeared to close the first half with momentum, on a conventional 3-point play from junior Austin Luke (Rowlett, Texas).
But in the waning seconds, Kenny Cooper wove through the Bruin defense and provided a conventional 3-point play of his own with under one second remaining to give Lipscomb a 36-26 lead at halftime.
It was another head-scratching first half for Belmont and a box score for the recycle bin - Belmont shot 32 percent (11-for-34) from the field - and just 3-for-20 from 3-point distance. The Bruins also committed nine first half turnovers.
Bradds was a man on a mission to start the second half, scoring six straight points to get Belmont within four.
A Luke 3-pointer and two more Bradds free throws narrowed the gap to 39-38 with 15:04 remaining.
But from there, Belmont endured a four minute cold spell, momentarily halting the charge.
Nevertheless, stifling Bruin defense and rebounding took control of the game, and kept the team poised to reclaim the lead.
After five Egekeze points, a driving basket from sophomore Kevin McClain (Jennings, Fla.) gave the Bruins a 46-45 advantage with 7:56 left.
Meanwhile, Belmont endured foul difficulties; with the Bisons earning the bonus nine minutes into the half and Bradds, Windler and Luke all nursing foul trouble.
McClain and Luke strung together 3-pointers to inch the Belmont lead to 3, 52-49, with 6:42 to go.
And despite the unconventional lineups, an Egekeze straight-on trey made the score 55-51 with 5:00 left.
Yet just as quickly as Belmont took command, the fouls mounted, many of which took place with Lipscomb far from scoring position.
Four free throws and a Mathews 3-pointer capped a 7-0 Lipscomb run to give the hosts a 58-55 lead with 3:47 left.
After McClain got Belmont back within one, Windler would foul out pursuing a long rebound with 2:41 left in regulation.
Despite the setback, a Bradds basket and two Luke free throws put the Bruins back ahead 61-59 with 1:53 left.
Moments later, Belmont appeared to get a defensive stop forcing Mathews to miss a floating bank shot.
But Bradds and Lipscomb's Aaron Korn collided going after the rebound, and Bradds was charged with his fourth personal foul.
Korn made two free throws to tie the score at 61.
Following an empty Bruin possession, Josh Williams made two free throws to put Lipscomb back on top, 63-61, with 1:14 to go.
Then on a slick offensive set, Luke found Bradds all alone for an easy two to again tie things at 63.
The Bruins then forced Mathews into a contested 3-point attempt. On the rebound, Williams fouled Barnette.
With 42 seconds left in regulation, Barnette sank both free throws to give the Bruins the two-point edge.
Moments later, Mathews was fouled on a drive attempt.
He would miss the first free throw, but make the second to cut the margin in half.
With the only three seconds between the game clock and shot clock, Belmont led by one and was in prime shape to preserve possession and secure the game from the free throw line.
Following a Bruin timeout in the frontcourt, Belmont found a safety valve in Egekeze to elude Bison pressure. But as Egekeze tried to locate a teammate, Cam Miller stepped in front of a pass and stole the ball.
Lipscomb proceeded to rush into the frontcourt and call timeout with 16 seconds remaining.
Belmont dug in for another possession of strong defense, denying Mathews the ball on the wing and Rob Marberry the ball in the post.
Late in the possession, Mathews was freed up and he drove into the lane.
Egekeze and junior Burton Sampson (Knoxville, Tenn.) converged as Mathews elevated, and Mathews was awarded two free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining.
Belmont head coach Rick Byrd would call timeout to organize the Bruins - and give Mathews time to think about his upcoming free throw attempts.
Mathews would make the first to tie the score at 65, but miss the second.
Egekeze grabbed the rebound and quickly passed to Luke, who nearly ended matters, as his running shot from halfcourt went halfway down and looped back out.
Belmont had to have mixed emotions about five extra minutes; on the one hand, positive thoughts having endured cold shooting by limiting Lipscomb to 4-for-24 shooting in the second half. But on the other hand, the Bruins were dealing with enormous foul trouble, with Windler gone, and more bad news looming.
Just three seconds into overtime, Luke was whistled for his fifth personal foul in an overzealous attempt to chase down the jump ball.
McClain would get the call and more seasoning.
Two Egekeze free throws and a Barnette 3-pointer gave the Bruins a promising 70-66 lead 90 seconds into overtime.
But after two Lipscomb free throws, Bradds would lose the handle along the Bruin baseline. He would then compound matters by fouling Cooper 94 feet from the basket to join Windler and Luke with five personal fouls.
Four Cooper points around a Marberry slam capped the 8-0 Lipscomb run and made the score 74-70 with 1:52 to go.
McClain would then chase down his own missed 3-pointer and earn a trip to the free throw line, calmly sinking both to get Belmont back within two.
Following a Bison turnover, senior Nick Smith (Bentonville, Ark.) would miss a 3-point attempt before Marberry ripped the ball free from McClain on the offensive glass.
After working clock, Mathews would drive baseline and hook a pass to Marberry for a point-blank basket and a 76-72 lead with 1:01 left.
Belmont would not panic, as Barnette responded in a big way, burying a wing 3-pointer in front of the Bruin bench to trim the margin to one.
Then after Egekeze rebounded a Williams miss, Belmont worked into the frontcourt and called timeout with 21 seconds left.
With Windler, Luke, and Bradds not among his options, Coach Byrd went deep into his playbook.
Belmont tried to free Smith for a 3-pointer but Lipscomb defended the action well.
From there, Belmont got the ball back to Barnette, who stagger dribbled, then launched a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The shot rimmed off, but Egekeze chased down the long rebound. The ball got to Sampson, who wisely kicked it back outside to Barnette, who this time drained a right-wing 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining.
Lipscomb inbounded the ball to Kenny Cooper, whose 40-footer at the horn rimmed off.
A flood of emotions engulfed the participants on the floor and in the stands; it was 45 minutes of high-level competition and courageous play.
All told, Belmont shot 35 percent (24-for-68) from the field - including 8 3-pointers after halftime. The Bruins forced 16 turnovers and held Lipscomb to 32 percent shooting - 4-for-24 shooting in the second half.
Bradds led four Bruins in double figures with 18 points and nine rebounds. Egekeze tallied his first career double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Barnette had 14, Luke 11.
Mathews led Lipscomb (3-8) with 25 points.
Belmont (4-3) is off for semester exams, returning to game action Wednesday, Dec. 14 vs. Middle Tennessee. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center. The game will be broadcast on American Sports Network. The live play-by-play can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network and 104.5 The Zone.
Fans interested in purchasing group tickets for the game are encouraged to contact George Plaster at (615) 460-6265.
NOTES: The Bruins have won 11 consecutive games in the Battle of the Boulevard series ... This was the 140th edition, Belmont is 20-9 in games played in the NCAA Division I era ... The Bruins won despite shooting .353 from the field; the last time Belmont shot that low of a field goal percentage and won was vs. Eastern Kentucky in the 2015 OVC Semfinal (.345, 19-for-55) ... Belmont elected to wear its alternate red uniforms ... When added to its season opening totals at Vanderbilt, Belmont is 20-for-86 (.233) from 3-point distance in the red uniforms this season ... Barnette saved his best for last, making three 3-pointers in the final 3:37 of overtime ... Barnette's shot conjured images of his game-winning 3-pointer in the 2015 OVC Championship over Murray State.