|March 04, 2019||1st||2nd||Final|
|Stats at a Glance||KSU||LIP|
|FG Percentage||.431 (28-65)||.518 (29-56)|
|3P FG Percentage||.389 (7-18)||.300 (9-30)|
|FT Percentage||.800 (8-10)||.826 (19-23)|
PARKER - 6
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NASHVILLE – The top-seeded Lipscomb men’s basketball team opened the ASUN Championship Monday night with an 86-71 victory over No. 8 Kennesaw State at Allen Arena.
“We had just one little stretch in the first half where I felt we were what we wanted to be,” ASUN Coach of the Year Casey Alexander said. “You have to give Kennesaw State a lot of credit, they executed their offense well.
“It’s a tough, grind defensively so it was frustrating, but you look at the final results and it’s pretty close to what we normally do, so you have to be happy with it.”
With the win, the Bisons advance to their fifth-straight ASUN semifinals where they will take on No. 5 NJIT at 7 p.m. Thursday in Nashville.
On a night when Lipscomb wasn’t at its best, junior guard Kenny Cooper picked up the slack. He scored 15 points, reeled in 10 rebounds and dished 10 assists for the program’s first triple-double since 2011 when Josh Slater accomplished the feat.
“It feels great, Josh Slater was an awesome player when he was here, so it’s an honor to be associated with him,” Cooper said.
Cooper also added a team high three steals in 34 minutes.
“I’m really proud of Kenny,” Alexander said. “Our team’s a lot better when he’s aggressive and making plays. He had seven assists at halftime, which is the most impressive part of it to me. That shows that he’s engaged, pushing the tempo and making plays for himself and others.”
ASUN Player of the Year Garrison Mathews posted a game-high 26 points with five triples. He moved past Mercer’s James Florence to take over third all-time in the ASUN in scoring with 2,307 career points.
Playing without its head coach and its leading scorer, Kennesaw State (6-26) put up a valiant fight in the first half, despite not having won a road game this season.
Over the first six minutes, the Owls got back-to-back buckets from Danny Lewis to take a 15-11 lead over the Bisons (24-6). With 8:33 remaining in the first half, Markus Smith deposited a layup to make it a 21-20 advantage for KSU.
From there, it would be all Bisons as the regular season champs strung together a 25-6 run with six makes from beyond the arc to close the half and take a 42-26 lead into the break.
Mathews led the late charge with 11 of his 18 first-half points in the final 5:28. Cooper went into the locker room with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
The Bisons opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers from Michael Buckland and Mathews to stretch the lead to 17 before Kennesaw State made a final run.
Lewis and Bobby Parker carried the Owls with 17 and 15 points, respectively, in the last 20 minutes. The duo helped pull KSU to within four with 9:22 at 61-57, but that would be as close as they would get.
The purple and gold sealed the victory at the free throw line down the stretch, nailing six of seven in the final 10 minutes.
The victory was the seventh in a row for the Bisons over Kennesaw State and the 17th in the last 19 meetings.
- Lipscomb shot 52 percent from the floor (29-of-56), while KSU hit 43 percent (28-of-65).
- The Bisons outrebounded the Owls 36 to 31 and won the battle in the paint, 38-26.
- Rob Marberry was the third Bison to finish in double figures after going 8-for-9 with 16 points and five rebounds.
- Mathews collected his 16th game this season of at least 20 points. The Bisons are 14-2 in those contests.
- Eli Pepper added nine points, while Buckland and Matt Rose each chipped in five.
The Bisons get ready to battle NJIT in Allen Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday in the ASUN semifinals.
“We learned last week what a challenge NJIT is,” Alexander said. “They’ve won 20 games this season, they’ve won double figure road games, and they came here a week ago and gave us everything we wanted. It’s going to be a tough task.”
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