Monday’s game began with a celebration of Lipscomb basketball seniors Matt Rose, Eli Pepper, Rob Marberry, Garrison Mathews and Nate Moran.
The celebrations didn’t end until well after the Bisons left Allen Arena with an 81-77 victory over the NJIT Highlanders.
Three-pointers were the name of the game for Lipscomb (22-6, 13-2 ASUN), as Mathews and Rose started the game with a trio of three-pointers to help the Bisons jump out to an 11-5 lead over the Highlanders (20-10, 8-7 ASUN) at the first media timeout.
The threes then kept raining for the Bisons. Lipscomb never surrendered the lead in the first half and took a 39-28 lead into the break. Mathews made three shots from long range in the first 20 minutes and finished with six total three-pointers.
“The past few games I’ve been shooting it [terribly],” Mathews said. “It’s kind of the time of the season where everybody’s tired, everybody’s sore. It’s tough. I just needed to get a little confidence back.”
Lipscomb’s defense in the first half was also stellar. The Bisons forced five turnovers and held the ASUN’s third-leading scorer in Zach Cooks to three points.
But NJIT made the game close in the second half. Even though the Highlanders got into foul trouble early in the half, they were able to close the gap to just one point with 10 minutes left.
Soon after, the Bisons gave up the lead for the first time, and the game became a back-and-forth affair for several minutes.
There were several moments when it looked like Lipscomb would open the game back up, including a sequence with a slam dunk from Eli Pepper that gave the Bisons a six-point lead with 90 seconds remaining.
But the Highlanders did not go away. A few key shots and fouls against Lipscomb allowed NJIT to get the Bisons’ lead down to three points with as many minutes to play.
“I didn’t think our team defense was that good,” Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said. “When you get out of rhythm, it’s kind of hard to get it back.”
Alexander was issued a technical for throwing a clipboard with 12 seconds left, which gave NJIT an opportunity to steal the game away from Lipscomb. But Mathews’ perfect 8-of-8 effort from the free-throw line made sure the Bisons stayed in front for good.
Mathews (32), Rose and Kenny Cooper (11) each finished in double figures for Lipscomb. Abdul Lewis (18), Zach Cooks (12), Shyquan Gibbs (19) and Diandre Wilson (15) all had double-digit nights for NJIT.
Lipscomb closes the regular season at North Alabama on Friday. A win would put the Bisons in good standing for the No. 1 seed in the ASUN tournament, which begins next Monday.
Photos by McKenzi Harris