FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Florida Gulf Coast men’s basketball team had bad memories from the last time Lipscomb visited Alico Arena, and the Eagles got their revenge Wednesday night.
FGCU knocked off the Bisons with a stunning, 67-61 victory. It was Lipscomb’s first visit to Fort Myers since its 108-96 victory in last year’s ASUN title game.
The Bisons (21-6, 12-2 ASUN) have now dropped two of their last three contests, but the latest loss is the most damaging to their postseason hopes. Previously, Lipscomb’s worst loss was to Belmont (NET: 58), but FGCU entered the night ranked much lower at No. 244.
Poor shooting led to Lipscomb’s worst offensive night
The Bisons shot just 29 percent (20-of-68) from the field in their worst offensive showing of the season. The dismal performance came exactly one week after the team shot 36 percent and scored just 66 points in a home loss to Liberty (23-5, 12-1 ASUN) on Feb. 13.
Lipscomb never fully settled into its offense and missed numerous shots around the basket. Senior forward Rob Marberry was held to eight points – well under his season average of 14.9.
Eagle defense was stifling
Of course, the FGCU defense had something to do with Lipscomb’s poor performance. The Eagles took advantage of light officiating in the paint and finished with 10 blocks.
FGCU forward Brian Thomas was responsible for six of those blocked shots. The 6-foot-9 big man also pulled down seven rebounds, while Zach Scott had eight boards. Lipscomb shot itself in the foot by committing 11 turnovers, which led to nine FGCU points.
FGCU’s Mercurius came up huge in second half
FGCU forward Dinero Mercurius showed his experience when his team needed it most. The fifth-year senior finished with 16 points, including 13 in the second half.
Nine of those 16 points came on three-point plays, as Mercurius powered through contact from Andrew Fleming, Nathan Moran and Kenny Cooper and made the ensuing free throw each time. He also knocked down a pair of critical freebies to extend FGCU’s lead to 58-55 with 1:52 remaining.
Mathews, Cooper and Fleming finish in double figures
The box score wasn’t as pretty as normal, but three Bisons still managed to finish in double figures. Lipscomb senior Garrison Mathews led the way with 16 points and three makes from long range. Just like Mercurius, 13 of Mathews’ points came in the second half.
Cooper produced 13 points for Lipscomb, while Fleming had 10. FGCU’s Schadrac Casimir (15) and Christian Carlyle (13) also had double-digit outings. Casimir gave the Eagles a 56-53 lead with a three at the 4:19 mark, and the Iona transfer made four throws down the stretch to seal the result.
At-large bid likely out of the question
The Bisons fell short of getting through ASUN play without a bad loss, and they must now face the consequences. Grabbing an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament is highly unlikely. Lipscomb will have to win the ASUN championship to get back to the Big Dance, and there’s a decent chance that road will run through Lynchburg, Virginia.
If Liberty can beat North Florida, Kennesaw State and NJIT to finish 15-1 in conference play, the Flames will claim the No. 1 seed and have home-court advantage for the ASUN tournament. Expect some bracketologists to rank Liberty over Lipscomb in upcoming projections.
Senior Night up next
The Bisons will look to rebound next Monday when NJIT visits Allen Arena for Senior Night. Marberry, Mathews, Moran, Eli Pepper and Matt Rose will each be honored before the game. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb/FGCU Athletics