ASUN conference play is heating up, which means every game is important and no opponent should be underestimated.

It was touch-and-go for a good portion of the first half, but the Lipscomb men’s basketball team turned up the heat on the North Florida Ospreys and never let go in an 81-66 victory at Allen Arena Tuesday night.

Senior guard Garrison Mathews returned to action after missing last Saturday’s game with a leg injury he suffered at Clemson on Dec. 30. He scored 25 points and knocked down five shots from beyond the arc, in addtion to giving the Bisons a boost with his veteran leadership and poise.

Lipscomb (11-4, 2-0 in ASUN play) has dropped four of its last five games to the Ospreys (7-10, 1-1 in ASUN play), and early on in Wednesday’s contest it looked as if trend might continue.

Despite senior forward Eli Pepper grabbing his Lipscomb record-setting 841st rebound, neither team was playing particularly well. The teams combined for 16 turnovers – 9 of which were committed by Lipscomb – with around 8 minutes to go in the half.

Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said he was disappointed with how often his team turned it over.

“This is three games in a row where we’ve uncharacteristically made a lot of turnovers,” he said. “We’ve got to fix it. It’s personal pride. It’s just being a little bit more solid decision-making performance.”

The Bisons wouldn’t make the fix before the end of the first half, going on to commit 6 more turnovers. But they kept pouring on the points anyway. A good stretch of possessions, including a monster crossover and dunk from Eli Pepper, led to the Bisons going on a 22-5 run to end the half ahead 41-28.

In the second half, the Ospreys did their best to try and get back in the game, but Lipscomb’s lead never dipped below nine points. Ultimately, it was foul trouble that played a big part in UNF’s doom. The Ospreys committed eight team fouls only midway through the half.

Lipscomb also shot the ball well, shooting 28-of-55 from the field and 12-of-22 from beyond the arc. Critical to the success in shooting were three Bisons that scored over 10 points, Rob Marberry (12), Eli Pepper (20), and Mathews (25). Pepper also grabbed 11 rebounds to complete his double-double.

“[It’s] hard not to look at that scoreboard and see you’re trailing [Mathews] – that’s a hard guy to keep up with,” Pepper said. ” You think you’re tied with him and he goes 15 seconds and scores 5 points out of nowhere.”

UNF had five players finish in double figures, including forward Noah Horchler, who had a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. Wajid Aminu, JT Escobar and Garrett Sams also had 12 points apiece for the Ospreys.

Lipscomb will host Stetson (4-12, 0-1 in ASUN play) on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Lipscomb Athletics

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