After failing to top the TCU Horned Frogs in two tries during the regular season, the Texas Longhorns did just that on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, smothering TCU defensively en route to a 58-44 win to advance to the NIT final on Thursday.
Prior to that effort, the action on the floor featured the Wichita State Shockers and the Lipscomb Bison in a mid-major battle that saw the Bison battle back down the stretch, erasing an 11-point second-half deficit and capping the game on a 21-3 run to advance to the title game, where they’ll now meet the 20-16 Longhorns.
“To be honest with you, we’ve been in this position a good amount so we’ve seen it before. We know we can come back and when the pressure gets on, we’ve been pulling through lately and we try to settle down and do what we do and get some stops and it worked out for us,” senior forward Rob Marberry said of Lipscomb’s double-digit comeback victory.
“I mean, like I said before, we’ve been there before and it’s huge to be able to trust your guys and know that they are not going to get rattled. We didn’t get down, like coach said, we tried to be a tough team and not worry about that kind of stuff. We play our game and hopefully, usually the outcome is in our favor.”
With the comeback victory, Lipscomb improved to 29-7 on the season after an eighth win in nine games.
Texas is now tasked with preventing that win total from reaching 30, and the Horns’ Thursday evening meeting with Lipscomb will mark the second matchup between the two programs in as many seasons. Last season, the Longhorns hosted the Bisons for the third game of the season, cruising to a comfortable 80-57 win. The Lipscomb squad that lost to the Longhorns last season nearly mirrors its 2018-19 form, which could inspire confidence for key Texas contributors such as Dylan Osetkowski, Matt Coleman III, Kerwin Roach II, and Jericho Sims, as the quartet totaled 36 points in limited minutes in the previous meeting.
Much like last season, Lipscomb features a veteran squad; one headlined by senior guard Garrison Matthews, who’s averaging 20.7 points per contest and connecting at a 41 percent clip from the perimeter. Senior forward Rob Marberry (14.8 PPG) and junior point guard Kenny Cooper (10.2 PPG, 4.3 APG) join Matthews in double figures, but they largely represent the bulk of the Bisons’ offense.
Aside from Matthews, Marberry, and Cooper, no Lipscomb player averages more than 7.5 points per game. For comparison, six Longhorns contribute at least 8.4 points per contest. Unsurprisingly, the recipe for success is slowing Lipscomb’s talented trio, as Texas did last season, limiting them to 31 points on 9-of-24 from the field.
A full game preview will follow prior to the final. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Central on ESPN.