The Lipscomb men’s basketball team just hit a speed bump in what has otherwise been a near-perfect season.
After the Bisons handed Liberty a 79-59 defeat in Lynchburg, Virginia on Jan. 29, the Flames returned the favor by escaping with a 74-66 victory Wednesday in front of 3,437 Allen Arena fans.
“The only thing to do is tip your hat to [Liberty],” Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said. “Our teams are comparable… we’re both efficient at what we do. They were just better.”
The loss was Lipscomb’s first in ASUN play and snapped an 11-game win streak. The Bisons (20-5, 11-1 ASUN) had not lost since Dec. 30 at Clemson (84-67).
Lipscomb senior Rob Marberry led all scorers with 22 points, while Garrison Mathews had 19. Five Flames finished in double figures, including Lovell Cabbil (16) and Scottie James (15).
Lipscomb fell behind early and never regained the lead. Eight different Flames scored in the first half, and Liberty held a 38-27 advantage at halftime.
Liberty’s low-tempo style threw the Bisons for a loop. Lipscomb committed 12 turnovers and shot 37 percent from the field. In the second half, the Bisons made just one of their 11 three-point attempts.
“The tempo was a struggle for us,” Alexander said. “It was a low-possession game. We didn’t have much movement offensively early…we got the ball inside and had empty possessions.”
Liberty (22-5, 11-1 ASUN) led by as many as 16 points with 18:21 remaining. But the Bisons showed resiliency and kept chipping away at the deficit. A three-point play from Ahsan Asadullah cut Liberty’s lead to 62-58 with 3:58 left, and Mathews knocked down a pair of freebies to bring the Bisons within two at the 1:30 mark.
“They blitzed us in the first half and kind of punched us in the face,” Marberry said. “Coach just tells us to just chip away, whether we’re down 50 or down 10. We did that decently [in] the second half.”
However, Liberty freshman Darius McGhee swished a three from the corner with 1:15 left, and Cabbil iced the game by making seven free throws down the stretch.
“We couldn’t get stops,” Mathews said. “They came out harder than we did. Credit to [Liberty] – that’s a good team.”
If Lipscomb and Liberty both win their four remaining games, the two teams would finish with identical 15-1 ASUN records. The No. 1 seed for the ASUN tournament would then be determined by the NET rankings. Lipscomb entered the evening ranked No. 30. Liberty was No. 61.
The Bisons will look to rebound on Saturday when they travel to Kennesaw State. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CT, and the game can be heard live on Lumination Radio.
“I think we have a mature group,” Alexander said. “We’ll see how a mature group [responds] on the negative side.”
Photos by McKenzi Harris