With the Atlantic Sun Tournament officially tipping off March Madness Monday night, Lipscomb looked in postseason form in a 97-66 quarterfinal rout of N.J.I.T.
Playing host as the higher seed in the opening game of the tournamentfor the first time since 2011, the Bisons jumped on the Highlanders right from the opening tip. Eli Pepper got things going with a baseline jumper, then got the crowd fired up with a reverse jam as Lipscomb jumped to an 18-2 lead.
All-conference guard Garrison Matthews hit his first seven shots from the field including a three that made the score 26-5 just over 6:00 into the game. Lipscomb made 12 straight field goals at one point during the run of silky smooth offensive execution on the way to a 50-31 halftime lead.
Matthews finished with a game-high 30 and Pepper and Rob Marberry each chipped in 14 as the Bisons shot 61 percent from the floor in the win, advancing to a semifinal showdown with three seed North Florida Thursday night at Allen Arena.
The Ospreys, who advanced with a 77-74 win over rival Jacksonville Monday, are just about the only team to give Lipscomb trouble this season, having handed the Bisons two of their three conference losses.
North Florida's 90-84 win in Jacksonville January 21st and 93-82 triumph in Allen Arena two weeks ago are Lipscomb's only two losses in it's last 12 games. So if the Bisons are going to have a chance to punch their first ever ticket to the NCAA Tournament next weekend, they are going to have to figure out a way to slow down Ospreys' superstar point guard Dallas Moore first.
Casey Alexander's team looked like a group ready for the challenge Monday night as they topped the 90-point mark for the 11th time this season. The Bisons stress defenses because they can score from anywhere on the floor with five very capable scorers.
But it may be the Bisons improved defense effort that can get it over the hump this postseason. They forced 19 turnovers and held N.J.I.T. to just 40 percent shooting Monday, a continuation of a trend that's seen them trim nearly five points off their points allowed per game average (77.6) during the final 10 games of the season. That's a huge improvement for a team that ranked in the 300s nationally in defense earlier in the year.
And it's the type of defensive effort Lipscomb will need Thursday night against North Florida to have a chance to advance to the Atlantic Sun championship for just the second time in school history.
For 40 minutes Monday night, Lipscomb looked more than ready for the postseason stage.