This Saturday, followers of Texas sports can experience the rare double header on television, with a mid-day football game followed up by a late afternoon basketball contest. The basketball game can serve as a way to keep the high going after yet another glorious football win for Tom Herman and the glorious Texas football team, or alternatively as a pallet cleanser / vessel of rage transference for day drinking football fans looking to put another loss behind them. Let's be real; it’s totally going to be the second thing.
With two games behind them, the Texas Longhorns face Lipscomb this Saturday, Nashville's third best Division I basketball team. The 2-1 Bisons also double as the strongest opponent that the Longhorns will yet have faced in this young season.
Head coach Casey Alexander returns a number of key players to a team that won 20 games last season and finished second in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The best is 6'5 junior wing Garrison Mathews. Mathews has a solid perimeter shot, but does as much damage attacking the basket, getting out in transition, and working his way to the free throw line.
The second key offensive player for the Bisons is 6'7 forward Rob Marberry, a junior low post player. Marberry is a solid low post scorer who has shot for an exceptionally high percentage from the floor so far this season, and who draws fouls and makes his free throws. He is good scoring from the low block, cleans up a lot of trash on the offensive glass, and runs the floor hard. Coach Alexander will also rotate Eli Pepper, Matt Rose, and Iowa transfer (and Oak Hill alumnus) Andrew Fleming through the front court. All three of these players have struggled through the early part of the season.
The Lipscomb back court has struggled through injuries so far this season. Senior point guard Nathan Moran, who had an outstanding junior season running the team and shooting the ball from the outside, has not yet played a game this year after an off-season surgery. Making matters worse, sophomore point guard Kenny Cooper missed the first two games of the season, finally returning to action just in time to get roasted by Alabama's Collin Sexton. With the two primary ball handlers out, 6'5 Michael Buckland was pressed into service, and the result predictably led to plenty of turnovers for the Bisons.
OK, let's take a break for a second, because there is something that I really want to talk about. The modern plural form of "Bison" is, well "Bison." It is not "Bisons." Not at all. Yet Lipscomb University has taken the curious decision of retaining "Bisons," an old pluralization approach that was more commonly used during the early 20th century, as the name it uses to refer to its athletics teams. North Dakota State and Bucknell both use the more conventional "Bison." Is Lipscomb is just being weird for the sake of being weird, or is it hanging on to an important tradition? I leave answering that question as an exercise for the reader.
As a team, Lipscomb shot the ball very well last season; this year so far that has not been the case. The Bisons generally look to push the tempo, and have no hesitation when it comes to firing the ball from outside. An up and down game that suits Texas well may very well be the result of all of this.
As of this writing, I have no idea if Mohamed Bamba will be ready to play after suffering a concussion in practice last weekend. Thankfully for the Longhorns the Texas front court is deep with Dylan Osetkowski, Jericho Sims, James Banks, and Royce Hamm all seeing action so far this year. It is a perfectly capable group even without Bamba.
The game tips off at 4 PM CST on Saturday in Austin, and airs on the Longhorn Network. Set your football rage to the side for a couple of hours and enjoy the game.