|March 04, 2018||1st||2nd||Final|
No. 2 Lipscomb
No. 1 FGCU
|Stats at a Glance||LIP||FGCU|
|FG Percentage||.653 (32-49)||.408 (29-71)|
|3P FG Percentage||.462 (12-26)||.400 (16-40)|
|FT Percentage||.681 (32-47)||.786 (22-28)|
TERRELL - 4
FORT MYERS, Fla. –For the first time in program history, the Lipscomb men’s basketball team is going dancing as the Bisons secured their automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament with a 108-96 win over FGCU in an instant-classic ASUN Championship final.
“It’s a great win for Lipscomb,” head coach Casey Alexander said. “There are tons of former coaches and players, students and fans back home celebrating this win. That’s what we are here for. What an unbelievable moment.
“I am just so happy for our staff, our players and our program. We are living history. What a moment.”
The win moved the Bisons to 23-9 on the season. They have won eight straight games and 12 of their last 13. The victory represented the third-straight over the Eagles at Alico Arena.
Lipscomb started out the game on fire, hitting 15 of its first 18 shots from the floor. The Bisons charge was led by none other than unanimous ASUN First Team All-Conference member and tournament MVP, Garrison Mathews.
The junior guard scored the first eight points of the game for Lipscomb and continued to be a thorn in the Eagles side all afternoon. He finished with a team-high 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including 7-of-14 from behind the three-point line. It was the fourth game this season of 30 or more points for Mathews. He also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
“Although this was a championship game, it was still just a game, the same game we’ve been playing all year long,” Mathews said. “It was huge for us to keep our composure after the first couple of possessions.
“Overall I felt it was a great half, we played really hard. The big key for us was our defense. We made stops and that allowed our offense to find plenty of opportunities. Our experience took over.”
Mathews and company torched the nets for 20 minutes as the Bisons built, what seemed like an insurmountable, 60-31 lead at the break behind 66.7-percent shooting from the floor. It was the most points the Bisons had scored in any half this season.
“I told our guys in the locker room at halftime, ‘you won that half by 29, so they can win the second half by 29’,” Alexander said. “We knew they (FGCU) would make a run, we just didn’t know how much of a run it would be.”
That run Alexander spoke of, came in the second half. Outscoring the Bisons 65-48 in the final 20 minutes of action, FGCU attempted the largest second-half comeback in NCAA history behind All-ASUN First Team honoree Zach Johnson and the league’s Player of the Year in Brandon Goodwin.
Johnson set two ASUN Final records with 37 points and nine three-pointers. He had just eight points and two long balls at the break. Goodwin finished with 34 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the field. Both marked career highs for both Johnson and Goodwin.
The All-Tournament team duo led a ferocious comeback that put FGCU on a 19-4 run in a span of 2:19, to cut the Bisons lead to 76-60. Johnson and Goodwin combined for 17 of those 19 points.
The Eagles full-court press that caused Alexander’s squad fits in the previous two meetings this season, did so once again on Sunday. After committing just six turnovers in the first half, the Bisons coughed the rock up 13 times after the break, trimming the lead to just 84-79 – the closest the game had been since 12-7 in the first half.
“It is so hard to settle down, regain your exposure and just be players,” Alexander said. “Especially when they came from 18 points down to win against us three weeks ago.”
Thankfully for the Bisons, the left-handed machine Rob Marberry got going in the paint. The junior center shocked Lipscomb back to life with a couple want-it-more buckets when the Bisons needed them the most. He scored nine points in less than three minutes to push the Bisons lead back out to double-digits, 95-85.
After the Eagles cut back to within six following a pair of free throws from Christian Terrell, sophomore guard Michael Buckland came up with an off-balanced jumper that banked off the backboard and into the net to extend the lead back to 99-91.
That would be as close as FGCU would come as point guard Kenny Cooper knocked down six shots from the charity stripe in front of a raucous Eagles student section to seal championship and the ASUN’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
“Taking time after practice and getting those reps in at the free throw line, it just becomes second nature,” Cooper said. “Coach always tells me, ‘want the ball at the end of the game and want the pressure’.
“That’s the kind of mentality I take into those moments. I want the pressure of having to step up and make two shots.”
The last time the Bisons reached the ASUN Final was in 2006 when they lost to Battle of the Boulevard rival Belmont in overtime. Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander was an assistant coach for Belmont at the time.
- Lipscomb improved to 13-9 all-time against FGCU – the only school in the ASUN with a winning record over the Eagles.
- The 108 points scored by the Bisons are the most-ever in an ASUN Final, and their second most of the season (110 at USC Upstate).
- The 204 combined points broke the ASUN’s previous record of 201 in the championship game, set in 1985 between Mercer and UALR.
- Mathews (MVP) was joined by Marberry and Cooper on the All-Tournament Team.
- The 83 points scored by Mathews during the ASUN Tournament was just four shy of the league record set by Centenary’s Willie Jackson in 1982.
- Marberry finished with 14 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting from the field. He also added three rebounds, three assists and three steals.
- With Mathews getting all the spotlight, the unsung hero of the first half for Lipscomb was Cooper. He only scored four points in the half, but the Franklin Road Academy product was dynamic with the ball in his hands, resulting in nine assists to zero turnovers.
- Cooper finished with 17 points, a game-high nine assists, five rebounds and one steal.
- Redshirt-sophomore Matt Rose added 14 points on three treys and three free throws.
- Junior forward Eli Pepper collected 13 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block.
- Buckland was credited with a career high five steals, as part of the team’s 12. He also had a career high three blocks.
- Lipscomb outshot FGCU 65.3 percent (32-of-49) to 40.8 percent (29-of-71).
- The Bisons recorded 24 assists to 19 turnovers, while FGCU notched 13 helpers and 18 miscues.
- The 24 assists were the second most of the season for the Bisons (27 vs. Fisk).
- With 12 three-pointers, Lipscomb has hit double-figure long balls in 11 games this season. Five times they have hit 12 or more.
- The Eagles were outscored in the paint for just the fifth time this season, 38-26.
- FGCU’s 16 made treys tied its single-game record in the programs NCAA era.
UP NEXT: The Bisons will wait for Selection Sunday to see where they are slotted in the NCAA Tournament bracket. Tune into CBS on March 11 at 5 p.m. to find out.
“We will be prepared when the bracket is shown for whoever we have to play, but we won’t do any preparation outside of just getting better as a team. These next seven days are about taking some time off, getting back to Nashville, and getting back in class – I know they guys love that.
“But most of all, I want us to enjoy the moment while also keeping focused.”