Part II: The Pinnacle of The Program, Lipscomb’s rise to basketball dominance

One of the more memorable games of Don Meyer’s tenure was the 1990 Battle of the Boulevard held in Memorial Gymnasium on Vanderbilt’s campus.

Before I dive into the game, let’s take a look back at what Chip Johnson wrote in the Feb. 16th edition of the Babbler leading up to the game.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the number on team in the nation, The Lipscomb University Bisons.”

The top ranked Bisons who now stand at 32-4 overall and 14-0 in the TCAC, face their toughest rival Saturday night in a game that is projected to break the attendance record for any NAIA game ever.

Entering the game, the Bisons of Lipscomb University and the Rebels of Belmont College were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the TCAC and No. 1 and No. 9 in the nation. That year, the Bison had already played Belmont four times, going 3-1 in those contests.

The Bisons were also riding a 15-game winning streak going into the biggest Battle of the Boulevard game in the rivalry’s history. During that streak, Marcus Bodie broke the NAIA record for most steals in a season. Jerry Meyer also broke the Lipscomb record for steals in a season. The span also allowed Hutcheson to work his way up to the number two and three spots on the all-time-scoring list.

Everyone was getting up for this game – sports writers, students, die hard fans, casual fans…everyone.

Also present was Rick Byrd’s red sweater vest. (Yes, he wore it in 1990, too.)

Leading up to the game, the Babbler staff talked to some of those reporters and fans of both teams to get their take on the rivalry.

Sportswriters compare teams’ finer points

Most fans attend basketball games for fun.

But there are two local fans who attend games – particularly TCAC games – because it’s their job.

Nashville Banner sportswriter Buster Olney and the Tennessean sports writer Nick Sullivan are especially excited about tonight’s game and the rivalry that exists between the teams.

Olney sees it as having “the feel of a good pick-up game until you realize that the two teams are playing for a shot at the national championship.”

Sullivan calls it one of the greatest rivalries going in Tennessee.

“It ranks with Tennessee and Vanderbilt in excitement and enthusiasm,” he said “It’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Olney said Lipscomb is doing better defensively and Belmont is doing better offensively.

“Both teams have clear weaknesses, but it takes an outstanding team to exploit them,” Olney said.

Each sportswriter singled out players he enjoyed watching.

“Joe [Behling] and Philip [Hutcheson] are so consistent, and you can’t watch Lipscomb without being impressing by Marcus [Bodie],” Olney said. “All the players play their roles, and that is impressive in itself.”

Sullivan said, “Behling is a very impressive player. He has ability more than physical ability – he has emotional ability. He can go into overdrive when his team has to score.

Hutcheson has great talent, he’s a great fellow, he’s accomplished so much in his career and is so modest about it. It really impresses me the points he’s scored and the honors he’s received, and he gives the credit to his teammates.

There’s not a better shooter in the city than Darren Henrie,” Sullivan continued. “He has tremendous range, accuracy, and ability to score inside. He’s also a very nice, impressive guy.

“Marcus Bodie doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his defensive play and his ability to pick up the team during a rare slump.”

What Belmont, Lipscomb students say about the game

Compiled by Nikki Holladay

Feb. 17, 1990

Jud Baldock, Lipscomb sophomore

“The Lipscomb-Belmont rivalry is particularly exciting because the two schools, and teams, are so much alike, yet different, making for an incredible game every time!”

Jerry Charles, Belmont junior

“The Belmont-Lipscomb rivalry is a great chance for us to get really fired up about our school. Sometimes, students here can be apathetic, but the games always seem to renew school spirit.”

Tim Knox, Lipscomb senior

“How can you say it’s a rivalry when we beat them three to four times a year!”

Mark Bennett, Belmont junior

“I think it is one of the best rivalries I’ve seen in a long time. It’s great for both schools, especially since they are both small. But, of course, only if Belmont comes out on top!”

Wendy Parker, Lipscomb junior

“The Lipscomb-Belmont games have always been among the most exciting games for me – the fans are really involved and we seem to ‘love to hate them.’ I guess that just goes hand in hand with a cross-town rivalry, and it’s especially fun.”

Robin Sanders, Belmont sophomore

“It is good to have a rivalry. It’s a great motivational tool.”

Lee Ann Smith, Lipscomb sophomore

“The Lipscomb-Belmont game promotes school spirit as well as unity among the students.”

Becky Lee, Belmont junior

“I really don’t have an opinion. I am a music major; however, I am an athlete, so may the best team win!”

Sherriann Henderson, Lipscomb sophomore

“I think that the rivalry is great because it shows how the entire school supports the Bisons and it always is the most exciting game of the year!”

Jennifer Beltz, Belmont sophomore

“I think [playing at Vanderbilt] will make the game more interesting.”

Pat Bennett, Lipscomb junior

“Behling-Hutcheson. Thse two players sum up the Belmont rivalry this year. Where else can you watch two great players in such a meaningful game compete with each other?”

Stephen Dean, Belmont sophomore

“I can’t wait to go. I know it’s going to be an incredible game for both teams. I hope the gym is as crowded as ever.”

And, man, was it ever crowded.

With the help of Vanderbilt, Belmont and Lipscomb invited the entire city to Memorial. It’s been said that while 16,000 people were in the gym that afternoon, thousands were still waiting to get in.

Lipscomb, of course, went on to win the game by a score of 124-107. The team was led by Hutcheson, who dropped 30 on the Rebels. Marcus Bodie, Darren Henrie, Wade Tomlinson and Jerry Meyer all had over 15 points as well.

While Hutch’s 30 was undoubtedly impressive, Belmont’s star Joe Behling scored 45 in a losing effort, topping all scorers.

From a 2010 City Paper story about the game: “I remember the pace of the game was so high, almost like a blur. When the game was over, I remember them bringing us to the table in the press room for interviews, and we had never done anything like that before,’’ Henrie said. “Coach (Don) Meyer approached it like any other game.’’

One thing amused Hutcheson during the game.

“I saw some of the Vanderbilt players seated behind our bench. Once, when Darren launched a three almost 10 feet behind the arc, their players put their hands to their heads, like ‘oh, no.’ When it swished in, they were all high-fiving each other,’’ Hutcheson said.

Tomorrow night, the rivalry reaches another milestone. This will be last time – barring an Atlantic Sun Tournament matchup –the Bruins and Bisons will play as Atlantic Sun conference foes.

Belmont makes their move to the OVC this summer.

Both teams have been able to overcome deficits that seemed impossible to come back from since the series’ inaugural game in 1953.

Just last month, a packed Curb Event Center watched the Bisons go on a 28-6 run, coming back from an 18-point deficit over the last 9:18 of the game.

On paper, the Bruins look poised to win this game. However, just as other rivalries have seen in the past, the stats and records are pushed aside for games like the Battle of the Boulevard.


Part I of this story can be viewed here: Part I: The Pinnacle of The Program, Lipscomb’s rise to basketball dominance.


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