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Texas faces Lipscomb with an NIT title on the line

The game tips in Madison Square Garden at 6 PM CDT, and airs on ESPN.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Semifinal-Lipscomb vs Wichita State Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Win or lose, there is only one game remaining this season for the 2018-2019 Texas Longhorns. So I guess they might as well try to win it. And if they do, they get an NIT championship.

The opponent is the Lipscomb Bisons. A season ago, I spent some time expressing my frustration over Lipscomb’s mascot name, so I am not rehashing that here, although I admit that typing “Bisons” over and over is going to be a bit of a challenge.

The Bisons had a nice season. They finished tied for first with a 14-2 record in the Atlantic Sun Conference before losing to Liberty in the conference tournament. This sent coach Casey Alexander’s team to the NIT.

Lipscomb’s progress through the NIT has gone like this. The Bisons started off the tournament with road wins at Davidson and UNC Greensboro, before winning a thrilling 94-93 game at North Carolina State. (You should consider finding that one on the ESPN app and watching it; it may be the single best college basketball game of this season.)

This earned coach Alexander’s squad a trip to New York, and thus far they have made the most of it, beating Wichita State on Tuesday night to earn a shot at the tournament championship.

Lipscomb is led by senior wing Garrison Matthews, who is an absolute gunner and the obvious choice for the MVP of the NIT. He played decently at Davidson and dropped 23 points against UNCG.

From that point he went off. Matthews scored 44 against NC State, including shooting 8-of-13 from beyond the arc. And then he followed it up with 34 points against Wichita State.

Matthews is a gunner. He will shoot and shoot, and then shoot some more. But he isn’t content to just hang out by the three point line; he has no qualms about driving to the basket, and can score around the rim (and at the free throw line), as well. It will be the final game of what has been a spectacular college career, and one can be sure he is going to try to do what he has always done, which is to get buckets.

There is more to Lipscomb than just Matthews. They rotate three quality big guys, with seniors Rob Marberry and Eli Pepper getting most of the minutes, while freshman Ahsan Asadullah has given coach Alexander good minutes off the bench. Marberry is really good as a scorer inside, while Pepper is more of an inside-outside combination player who can stretch the floor with his shot.

Beyond that, Lipscomb has a seemingly endless supply of shooters. Junior point guard Kenny Cooper and junior wings Michael Buckland, Matt Rose, and Andrew Fleming all are capable of lighting teams up from beyond the arc.

So offensively, the picture you should have is that the Bisons (sigh) will play fast and let the shots fly from long range. On the defensive end of the floor Lipscomb makes things pretty tough on opponents. They do a nice job of containing dribble penetration and keeping the ball out of the paint, which means that opponents typically find themselves shooting a lot of threes. They also do a nice job on the defensive glass, which means opponents typically have to make the most of their initial shots, which often come from beyond the arc.

For Texas, containing Matthews and finding shooters in transition will be important. Also, Texas will have to make a few outside shots of its own more than likely to come away with a win.

The game tips in Madison Square Garden at 6 PM Central, and airs on ESPN.