The Owls put four 3-point shooters on the floor and forward Nate Rucker, who had attempted only one 3-point shot this season. Unfortunately, it was Rucker who was forced to take a 3-pointer with the final seconds ticking off the clock. The ball missed everything and Lipscomb held on to win 76-73 in front of a sparse crowd of approximately 400 at the KSU Convocation Center.
The final play was not why Kennesaw State (5-22, 2-13 Atlantic Sun) lost the game, but just one example of how all the little things a team does wrong adds up to a defeat. During the course of the game, the Owls missed 12 layups, a dunk and shot only 18 of 28 from the free throw line.
“Layups and free throws missed,” Owls interim coach Jimmy Lallathin said. “We missed a lot of shots right at the rim and losing by three that cost us.
“This is a tough one to swallow. We have to be able to execute when we get shots from point-blank range.”
The loss is doubly damaging as it drops Kennesaw State three full games behind eighth-place Jacksonville in the conference standings with only four games to play. Only the top eight teams qualify for next month’s A-Sun tournament.
The Owls also missed an opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time in three years.
After allowing a layup to open the second half, the Owls went on a 20-9 run highlighted by two 3s from Love, one by Myles Hamilton and an alley-oop dunk from Hamilton to Orlando Coleman to take their biggest lead of the game at 50-46. Love would finish the night making 4-of-5 3s and scoring a team-high 21 points.
With the Bison leading 58-54, Hamilton went in for a layup and was called for pushing off on his way to the basket. The call wiped out the basket and Willy Kouassi, who was on the bench, was called for a technical foul for his reaction to the play.
The sequence spurred a 15-8 spurt by Lipscomb (12-14, 7-8) that included a 3 by Martin Smith, who had a game-high 25 points, and was capped by a dunk by Josh Williams, who finished with 22.
“For a minute in the second half we lost our poise,” Lallathin said. “And that let them go on a run.”
Following the dunk, Lipscomb led 73-62 with 3:38 to play, but Nigel Pruitt tried to bring the Owls back all by himself.
Pruitt, who came off the bench to score 16 points, hit a 3-pointer and made 6 of 7 free throws in the closing moments. His final free throw pulled Kennesaw State within 75-73 with 27 seconds to play.
Coming off a last-second win over Northern Kentucky on Friday, Kennesaw State did not look like a team trying to build on any momentum as Sunday’s game began. Lipscomb scored the first eight points and built an 18-9 lead with 13 minutes left in the half.
But in what was a foreshadowing of how the game would be played, the Owls answered with a 14-4 run of their own and took the lead for the first time 23-22 on Delbert Love’s 3-pointer — one of six first-half 3s by Kennesaw State — with 5:36 to play before the break.
That lead lasted 16 seconds before Talbott Denny connected on one of the Bison’s seven first-half 3s. Two more 3-pointers — one each by Martin Smith and Josh Williams — put Lipscomb back up seven at 33-26, and it would carry a 35-30 lead into halftime. The teams combined to shoot 51 percent from behind the arc and they each made 11 3-pointers.