|March 07, 2019||1st||2nd||Final|
|Stats at a Glance||NJIT||LIP|
|FG Percentage||.391 (18-46)||.492 (31-63)|
|3P FG Percentage||.400 (8-20)||.320 (8-25)|
|FT Percentage||.846 (11-13)||.889 (8-9)|
WILSON - 2
MATHEWS - 5
LEWIS - 1
BRINSON - 1
COOPER - 1
BUCKLAND - 1
NASHVILLE – For the second year in a row, the Lipscomb men's basketball team is headed to the ASUN Championship Final after the Bisons beat NJIT 78-55 on Thursday night in the ASUN semifinals in Allen Arena.
Garrison Mathews was dialed in early on, as the ASUN Player of the Year simply could not miss, hitting six of his first seven attempts.
“I turned around and looked at our AD, Philip Hutcheson, and we both knew what the other was thinking,” Lipscomb head coach Alexander said. “Garrison can score the basketball, and he does it in pretty impressive fashion.”
After a blazing first half, the senior cooled down in the second, but still finished with a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds as well as a season-high five assists.
“I was fortunate to knock down some shots, and I have great teammates making great passes,” Mathews said. “It makes it easier for me to get open for shots.”
He surpassed former Bison great Andy McQueen (1991-94) to get to third on Lipscomb’s all-time scoring list after entering the night just 12 points behind.
The Bisons (25-6) and Highlanders (21-12) traded buckets on each of the first five possessions of the night before a quick 9-0 run pushed Lipscomb's lead to 21-12 after nearly six minutes of action.
After NJIT pulled to within two possessions senior Matt Rose buried two straight triples for the Bisons to send them into the locker room up 11 at 48-37.
The second half was a much different story as the defending ASUN champs clamped down defensively on the Highlanders, allowing just 18 points - the second fewest they've allowed in a half this season (14 vs Covenant). It is a recipe the Bisons have used for much of the season to get them to this point.
"It was the best defense we have played in a while," Alexander said. "We've struggled at times the last few weeks on that side of the ball, but tonight was back to normal."
Lipscomb's stingy defense forced 17 miscues by the Highlanders and scord 23 points off those turnovers. An 11-0 Lipscomb run with the clock ticking under five minutes sealed the semifinal victory for the Purple and Gold.
“We got that margin in the last few minutes where we could just hold the ball,” Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander said. “We aren’t real good at that, but I was willing to just bite the time off because I felt there was too little time left for them to come back.”
The run was spurred by senior Matt Rose, who matched his season high with 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting. His previous 17-point outing this season came at NJIT in January.
All-ASUN Freshman Ahsan Asasdullah was a menace on the defensive end for Lipscomb, grabbing a career-high 10 boards, notching a career-high four steals, and forcing a number of key turnovers.
“Ahsan, what an unbelievable contribution he made tonight just being active,” Alexander said. “He runs down a steal in transition, he gets hands on balls in half court, he keeps balls alive on offensive rebounds and played with some energy.
“It gave our team a lift and our guys love seeing him make those kinds of contributions and playing with passion. It is helpful to our team.”
Lipscomb torched the nets in the first half to a 57.1 percent shooting clip. For the game, the Bisons outshot NJIT 49 percent to 39 percent.
The Bisons defense limited NJIT's two All-ASUN selections in Abdul Lewis (first team) and Zach Cooks (second team). The duo combined for just 17 points and nine rebounds on 6-of-21 shooting and nine turnovers.
Diandre Wilson led the Highlanders with 13 points.
- The Bisons will be playing in their third ASUN title game in program history. They took home the championship last season with a record-setting 108-96 win over top-seeded FGCU on their home court. The other appearance resulted in a 74-69 overtime loss to Belmont in 2006.
- Lipscomb dominated the boards, winning the rebounding battle 38-22. It matches the fewest rebounds the Bisons have allowed this season (22 vs. Covenant), and ties the third-largest rebounding margin (+33 vs Covenant, +21 at North Florida).
- The Bisons also dished out 16 assist to NJIT’s 7.
- Eli Pepper scored 10 points and finished second on the team with seven rebounds.
- Rob Marberry gave Lipscomb four players in double figures with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
- Mathews recorded his 16th game of at least 20 points this season and the 55th of his career.
- Three nights after racking up a triple-double, Kenny Cooper stuffed the stat sheet once again with nine points, five rebounds and five assists.
- The Purple and Gold swept all three matchups with NJIT on the season.
- The victory gave the Bisons their NCAA program-record 25th win of the season. It also represented the 14th win at home this season, which is the most the program has ever had in the D-I era.
Lipscomb will host No. 2 Liberty in the ASUN Final on Sunday at 2 p.m. in a game televised on ESPN. The winner will earn the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
It will be the first time Lipscomb has ever been nationally televised on ESPN at home.
“If you are a competitor, this is what you sign up for. Put me in a positon that requires me to be my best and see if I can do it,” Alexander said. “We’ve got great respect for Liberty, they are an unbelievable team and they present problems. They handled us in here last time they came.
“Sunday will be the biggest game for the program since the Lipscomb-Belmont game that sold out in Memorial Gym. It's a big day for our campus, our program and everybody that cares about our school. I am happy our players have put themselves in a position to be here and enjoy the moment."