As non-conference games come to an end, ASUN regular season play will begin this weekend on January 5th. Throughout the non-conference portion of the 2018-19 season, ASUN member schools have either played exceptionally well or exceptionally poor. Only four of nine ASUN teams currently possess winning records, and the bottom three teams only have nine wins combined. Due to the lopsidedness among ASUN schools, many believe that reigning conference champion Lipscomb and new member Liberty are on a collision course that will end in the conference tournament championship game. Let’s see how to two teams have performed this season.
Sporting the conference’s top scoring offense, the Bison are led by one of the nation’s top scorers, Senior Garrison Mathews. The two-time unanimous All-ASUN guard and preseason ASUN Player of the Year, has torched opponents and became the fastest Lipscomb player to reach 1,000 points in the NCAA Division I era during his Sophomore season. This season Mathews is third in the ASUN with 17.9 ppg and is shooting 38.8% from three. Mathews has also scored at least 20 points in seven of Lipscomb’s 13 games, with a season high of 29 points against Middle Tennessee State.
The Bison are also led by Senior forward Rob Marberry. Coming off a first team All-ASUN Junior campaign, Marberry is fifth in scoring in the ASUN averaging 16.1 ppg. Marberry’s toughness and physical play has led to much Lipscomb’s success, and he currently leads the team in blocks for the third straight season.
This season the Bison have marquee wins over SMU and #18 TCU. Despite having four losses on the season, two of the team’s losses were by three and two points to mid-major juggernaut Belmont. The other two losses were to Louisville and Clemson from the ACC. The Bison are the preseason favorites to finish first in the league, and they currently possess the third best record in the ASUN.
Entering their first year as a member of the ASUN conference, the Flames are off to a record start. Led by Junior forward Scottie James with 12.1 ppg, the Flames have one of the most balanced offenses in the ASUN. Coming off a Big South Conference second-team showing his sophomore year, and ASUN preseason first-team honors, James is shooting an ASUN best 70.2% from the field (9% higher than Lipscomb’s Ahsan Asadullah in second place), and also ranks third in rebounding with 8.9 rpg.
A bright spot for the Flames this season has been Freshman guard Darius McGhee. The 5’8 guard is averaging 11.0 ppg and is one of the better three point shooters in the conference. McGhee brings energy off the bench for the Flames, and his poise is exceptional for a true Freshman.
Despite not having a top 10 scorer in the conference, the Flames have excelled by playing unselfish offense and stifling defense. Four of the Flames players are averaging over 10 ppg, and they also have three players in the top 10 in three point percentage. The most important factor to the Flames’ success has been their pack-line defense, which has held opponents to 61.3 ppg; seven fewer points than second place NJIT.
The Flames have key wins over Kent State, Georgia State and UCLA. Also, three of the Flames’ four losses have come to Power 5 schools Vanderbilt, Georgetown and Alabama, and no losses have been greater than ten points.
The Bison of Lipscomb begin their conference schedule in Jacksonville, FL this Saturday, December 5th, as they take on the (7-8) Dolphins of Jacksonville University. The Liberty University Flames also begin their inaugural ASUN season in Fort Meyers, FL, as they take on the (5-10) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
Both “LU’s” are expected to open conference play with victories, and they will face off for the first time on Tuesday January 29th, at the Vines Center in Lynchburg, VA. How will the high scoring Bison offense fare against the stifling Flames defense? This should be fun to watch!