FORT MYERS, Fla. - No. 2 Lipscomb defeated top-seeded FGCU on its home court to head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. An instant classic of a championship final, the Bisons held off a furious second-half comeback by the Eagles for the 108-96 victory, marking the most combined points in an ASUN Final surpassing the 1985 Final.
The ASUN Championship Most Valuable Player, Garrison Mathews scored 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting including 7-of-14 from deep. All-Tournament team selections Kenny Cooper (17) and Rob Marberry (14) helped carry the scoring load as Lipscomb built a 32-point lead in the first half. The Eagles outscored Lipscomb, 65-48, in the second half as FGCU attempted the largest second half comeback in NCAA history. All-Tournament Team selection, Zach Johnson set two ASUN Championship Final records with 37 points and nine three pointers made. He was joined on the All-Tournament team by Brandon Goodwin who finished the game with 34 points. Both marked career-highs for the Eagle backcourt tandem.
Lipscomb blistered the nets in the opening half as the Bisons dropped 60 points to take a 29-point advantage into the break. Two-time First Team All-Conference nod, Mathews registered 26 points on five made three-pointers as he nearly outscored the Eagles on his own as the scoreboard read 60-31. Matt Rose added 13 points for the Bisons on three triples as the Bisons shot 66.7 percent from the floor and 9-of-17 from deep. Cooper dished out nine assists, which equaled his season game-high. ASUN Player of the Year, Goodwin led FGCU with 10 points as Antravious Simmons managed nine points.
The Eagles committed 12 turnovers in the opening half after only committing 11 combined turnovers in the first two games of the ASUN Championship. The Bisons grabbed nine steals with five coming from Michael Buckland. The 60 points allowed in the half were the most-ever by the Eagles in the program's Division I history. Lipscomb led by as much as 32 points in the first half with 57 seconds remaining.
In the second half, Lipscomb started off strong in the first four minutes as they maintained a 31-point advantage. But the Eagles refused to go down without a battle as they began cutting into the Bisons lead minute-by-minute. In the span of 2:19, FGCU produced a 19-4 run to trim the lead down to 76-60. Goodwin and Johnson combined for 17 of those 19 points. FGCU's press defense continued to cause havoc as the Eagles cut the deficit all the way down to six with 2:46 to go. Michael Buckland hit a clutch jumper to push the lead back to 99-91, and the Bisons closed out the game at the free-throw line with Cooper knocking down four pressure free throws.
The Bisons improve their record to 23-9, while FGCU's record falls to 23-10. The Eagles continue their season in the NIT, earning an automatic berth by winning the ASUN regular season. Lipscomb awaits the 2018 NCAA March Madness Selection Show, featuring the exclusive live first-time announcement of the pairings for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship, which will be televised on TBS – Sunday, March 11, at 6 PM ET.
No. 1 FGCU vs. No. 2 Lipscomb Championship Final Notes
- The two teams combined for an ASUN Championship Final record 204 points. The previous record sat at 201 combined points from the 1985 ASUN Championship Final between Mercer and UALR.
- Garrison Mathews produced his seventh career 30-point game scoring a team-high 33 points. Four of those seven 30-point games have come this season for the Bisons.
- Mathews scored 83 total points during the 2018 ASUN Championship, four shy of the league record set by Centenary's Willie Jackson in 1982.
- North Florida's Garrett Sams & Jacksonville's Cody Helgeland joined the FGCU & Lipscomb student-athletes on the All-Tournament team.
- The Bisons have now won the last three contests against FGCU in Alico Arena as they improved to 13-9 all-time vs. the Eagles.
- Mathews, Goodwin and Johnson all became two-time All-Tournament Team selections. Mathews and Goodwin adorned the team last year and Johnson earned the honor in 2016.
- No. 2 seeds have won the last four games against the top seed and eight of the last nine in the ASUN Championship Final.
Tweets by @ASunMBB