Liberty (17-7, 8-1) vs. Lipscomb (10-15, 3-7)
Lynchburg, Virginia – Liberty Arena (Capacity: 4,000)
Tuesday, Feb. 8, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: The two teams split the season series last year, both played in Nashville, on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2.
Series History: Tied 5-5
Projected LU Starters:
2 Darius McGhee (Sr., 5-9, 150) – 22.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 apg
23 Joseph Venzant (Fr., 6-3, 170) – 4.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.7 apg
20 Keegan McDowell (R-Sr., 6-6, 180) – 10.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.8 apg
22 Kyle Rode (Jr., 6-7, 220) – 7.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.0 apg
33 Shiloh Robinson (R-Jr., 6-7, 200) – 10.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.0 apg
Projected Lipscomb Starters:
0 KJ Johnson (So., 6-3, 165) – 7.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 3.4 apg
1 Greg Jones (Jr., 6-3, 200) – 9.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg
2 Will Pruitt (Fr., 6-3, 195) – 9.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.8 apg
13 Parker Hazen (Sr., 6-8, 210) – 8.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.6 apg
23 Ahsan Asadullah (Jr., 6-9, 275) – 15.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.9 apg
Following a three-game road trip, the Flames return home to take on a very familiar foe in the Lipscomb Bisons. Liberty hosts Lipscomb for the first time since the 2020 ASUN Championship and the first time ever at Liberty Arena where the Flames will be looking to start a new win streak after its 45-game home win streak came to an end in their last home game. Other than Jacksonville State, Lipscomb is the only other ASUN team to defeat Liberty on their home floor, doing so during the Flames’ first season in the league on Jan. 29, 2019.
Under third year head coach Lennie Acuff, Lipscomb is currently 10-15 on the season and 3-7 in conference play. The Bisons have lost three of their last four games, including two straight, as they are coming off consecutive home losses to stetson and FGCU. Their ASUN wins have come against North Alabama, Kennesaw State, and, most recently, at North Florida on Jan. 29.
“Lennie Acuff is one of the best offensive coaches, if not the best, in the country,” Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay said. “Not saying he’s not one of the best coaches in the country. Lipscomb is way better than their record.”
As has been the case for the past few seasons, everything for Lipscomb runs through big man Ahsan Asadullah. The 6’9″ forward has been named first-team all-ASUN each of the past two seasons, and he is hoping to make it a third straight this year.
“He was in the top three last year in terms of usage rate,” McKay said of Asadullah. “They play through Ahsan, and rightfully so. Not only is he a very prolific and efficient scorer around the basket, he is an elite passer. You can’t bring a double team every time. You can’t play him one on one consistently. You’ve got to try and dilute his effectiveness because there is nothing you can do to take him away. He is that good of a player.”
In addition to Asadullah, Lipscomb has a veteran roster with several players who have played a key role on their team in recent years. Point guard KJ Johnson became a fixture in the backcourt for the Bisons last season, and he continues to be the engine for the offense. Guard Greg Jones has been a starter for three straight seasons, and he has become more of a scoring threat this year. Graduate student Parker Hazen is in his third year with the program and provides a steady force in the paint with the ability to stretch out behind the three-point line.
Will Pruitt, a 6’3″ COVID-freshman, played in 17 games last season for the Bisons. He’s become a more integral part of the puzzle this season, as he has started all 25 games this season and is averaging 9.5 points per game. 6’7″ forward Jacob Ognacevic is another COVID-freshman who spent last year at Valparaiso. He played in all 28 games at Valpo as a true freshman, averaging 6.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. He is currently second on the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game. He has made 56.2% of his field goals and 50.9% of his 57 three-pointers.
“He is a terrific player,” McKay said of Ognacevic. “I think here is what Coach Acuff’s dilemma has been – you play one way with Asadullah, and you play that wain the summer, in the preseason, once the season starts, then, he has to go down with an injury. Now, what do you do? Do you play a whole different way? I think they’ve got two really good forwards in (Ognacevic) and Parker Hazen. Those two players really up their cause. When you surround them with the shooting that they do, dangerous. I have a ton of respect for Coach Acuff and the Bisons. I’m very concerned going in that we have to make sure we are the best version of ourselves becuase they will be a tough out.”
Liberty 82, Lipscomb 66