Joe-Biddle

JOE BIDDLE: Bisons fought good fight

When I saw Lipscomb drew North Carolina, I knew the Bisons had their work cut out for them.

For the Bisons, this was their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They were up against a North Carolina program that has flown flags signifying championships on top of championships.

They showed Atlantic Coast Championships. There were NCAA Tournament flags. National championship flags. Name it. They put them up.

The late legendary Dean Smith built a dynasty in Chapel Hill. In Durham, Coach Mike Krzyzewski was building a program that stood nose to nose with the Tar Heels.

Lipscomb Coach Casey Alexander put his name and team in the record books Friday.

They were a 15-seed, going against 2-seed North Carolina.

It was the first time in school history that Lipscomb got its first taste of what the big boys sometimes take for granted.

I knew Alexander had a seat on the bench beside Belmont Coach Rick Byrd as a longtime assistant coach. It included NCAA Tournaments. They had gone to the Big Apple for the NIT, which was nice but didn't touch the NCAA Championship competition.

The Bisons stayed within reach of North Carolina early in the game, made it competitive before bowing out in their debut, 84-66.

It's an experience that each and every one representing Lipscomb will never forget.

"Everybody knows it takes a magical performance from somebody like us to beat somebody like them, and we didn't get that. So we were fighting uphill all afternoon it felt like,'' Alexander said after the game.

They need to hold their heads high, despite what the scoreboard implied.

"I thought our guys really competed and continued to play all 40 minutes,'' Alexander added. "We just couldn't get enough balls to drop . . . "couldn't create enough of our own momentum to really give us a chance.''

Even though Casey has had the experience when he was at Belmont, he knows it is not going to be overnight. He learned that with the Bruins. Casey is just beginning his own trip with Lipscomb.

It was nothing to hang their head about this year, this first step.

"It's a great accolade for this team, for Lipscomb and the community around us,'' said Lipscomb's Rob Marberry. "We played out butts off all season and we've made history all throughout the whole season.''

The Bisons beat Belmont twice this season. They added another record by winning 21 games for the second straight season.

"This one loss doesn't determine, doesn't make our season,'' Marbury said.

The future is even brighter for the school and it's program under Alexander. They lose three seniors, but keep all five starters.

"I hope it means we'll be back on this stage going forward. That's the goal for me personally, you know,'' Casey said. "When somebody gives you a chance to be their coach and they give you the resources you need and the support you need, the love you need, to go do your job.

"It's awesome to be able to hand something back over to them and see them experience this moment.''

It's better to give than receive.

Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at joebiddle11@gmail.com.


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