Ian Clark couldn’t miss.
The senior guard shot seven threes and scored in double digits for his seventh of eight games in the Belmont mens’ basketball team’s 34-point win over the Lipscomb Bisons Tuesday night.
“Ian, over the course of the first eight games, has played better than any player we’ve had for that stretch of time, at least in the Division I era,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said.
Clark said the win was a matter of poise, especially when the crosstown Bisons opened the game with an 18-10 lead.
“They’re a good team and they made a run early and we got into some foul trouble,” he said. “We just calmed ourselves and played how Belmont plays and took the lead and didn’t look back after that.”
For the second year in a row, he scored a season-high 30 points during the Battle of the Boulevard, helping the Bruins sweep the Lipscomb Bisons for the first time since 2008.
This 100-66 win at the Curb Event Center allowed Belmont to improve to 6-2 on the season and 12-9 over the Bisons since both teams jumped to the NCAA.
The opening six minutes of the Battle were scrappy on both sides as guards Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark scored first against a seemingly unstoppable combination of Lipscomb’s Khion Sankey and Martin Smith who helped the Bisons jump to a 12-7 lead.
Clark and Johnson would continue to carry the Belmont offense with two more 3-pointers, keeping the Bruins within striking distance near the 11-minute mark as Lipscomb still led 19-17.
Brandon Baker and Reece Chamberlain would help Clark continue a 10-2 scoring run to take a 29-22 lead with nearly seven minutes before the half.
“Obviously, Ian’s just playing really really well, but then Trevor makes two huge threes in the first half, and Reece makes two huge threes and we played the last 11 minutes without Kerron in the game. I can’t tell you what that does for the confidence of our team,” Byrd said.
Threes from Clark and Trevor Noack extended Belmont’s biggest lead of the half, 45-34, with just under a minute to go.
“To know we could increase our lead and take it to double figures, it was pretty close to even and to be up by double figures at halftime with him on the bench had to be great for us and it had to be tough for them,” Byrd said.
The backcourt duo of Johnson and Clark led the Belmont offensive effort into the second half, scoring a combined 12 points in the first seven minutes to hold their 11-point lead.
Points from Clark and a slam dunk from Blake Jenkins sparked a 7-0 scoring run that lasted for the next seven minutes as Lipscomb only scored from the foul line.
The Bisons shot only one three the entire second half.
Clark would receive a standing ovation from the crowd at the five-minute mark as he sank a free throw for his season-high 30 points, bringing the lead to 90-60.
A combination of depth and stellar rebounding would seal the game for the Bruins as they would cruise to their first triple-digit victory of the season.
Belmont’s bench scored 33 points, and the team had 49 rebounds compared to Lipscomb’s 35.
Belmont’s next game is at home against in-state rival Middle Tennessee State on Dec. 13.
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