It is the final non-conference game of the year and it is one that is exactly what we need. After blowing out Valparaiso, IUPUI, and Tennessee State in our last three home game we come home for what may be the toughest of these four tune-up games. Valparaiso was supposed to be tough, but Purdue exposed them as a bit of a paper tiger. Lipscomb has a little more data behind them. They have a strangely high RPI for this point in the season and that makes them an early favorite in their conference.
A victory over the Bisons would not be on par with some of Purdue’s other wins this season, but it could be a win over a team that makes it to the NCAA Tournament. Think of it as a round 1 level game.
From: Nashville, TN
Date : Saturday, December 30, 2017
Tip Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2016-17 Record: 19-13, 11-3 Atlantic Sun
2017-18 Record: 9-4, 0-0 Atlantic Sun
Opponent Blog: None
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 1-0
Last Lipscomb Win: None
Last Purdue Win: 66-62 at Purdue on 11/20/2007
NCAA Tournament History: Never Appeared
Coach: Casey Alexander (70-70 in 5th season at Lipscomb, 94-106 overall)
It is always fun to see teams make the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Now that Northwestern finally made it and left the original 5 teams (Northwestern, Army, The Citadel, St. Francis (NY) and William & Mary) that have been around for every tournament, but never made it, there are still dozens of others out there. Officially, 44 of the 351 current Division I teams have never heard their name called on Selection Sunday.
Lipscomb legitimately could leave that club this season, but their closest approach is one of the most agonizing. They moved up to Division I only in earlier this century, so they are relatively newcomers, but in 2006 they almost broke through. They won the regular season Atlantic Sun title and, but fell to bitter rival Belmont 74-69 in overtime. It was their second loss to Belmont out of three games in a 21-11 season, and it sent Belmont to its first NCAA Tournament.
And Belmont-Lipscomb is, indeed, a bitter rivalry. Their campuses are separated by about 3 miles of Belmont Boulevard in Nashville and it dates back to both schools’ NAIA days. It is a hotly contested series and the schools STILL play a home-and-home every year despite being in different conferences now. It is a small-scale Indiana-Purdue rivalry where Lipscomb leads the overall series 74-67, but Belmont has been to 7 NCAA Tournaments since 2006 and Lipscomb is still waiting.
After that 2006 season Lipscomb again won the Atlantic Sun regular season title in 2010, but again lost in the conference tournament. Their lone game with Purdue was almost a memorable upset in Mackey Arena. On November 20, 2007 the Baby Boilers were freshmen playing in their second career collegiate game. They nearly lost it, too. Keaton Grant gave Purdue a 64-62 lead with less than a minute left and Scott Martin sealed the game at the free throw line with 9 seconds left.
Now, 10 years later, Purdue has another class quartet, only they are seniors instead of freshmen. Lipscomb is also still searching for the at first NCAA bid. They have a pair of non-D1 wins, but lost major conerence games to Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee. Against Tennessee they hung tough before losing in Knoxville 81-71. Since Purdue has a loss to Tennessee, that seems like a significant result. They also beat Belmont twice, and the Bruins are a top 70 team in the RPI. That gives Lipscomb an unusually high RPI, and they are close enough that they could sneak into the top 100 of the KenPom. They are the highest rated team in the Atlantic Sun and the only one with a winning record, so they could potentially go on quite a role after this Purdue game.
They are lead by Garrison Mathews, a three-time Atlantic Sun player of the Week honoree this year. The 6’5” junior is averaging an impressive 20.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. That’s good enough for 39th individually in the nation in scoring. He is an excellent shooter, hitting 42.5% from three, 47.3% from the floor, and 76.3% from the line. Earlier this season he passed 1,000 points for his career and he has a very good shot at hitting 2,000 before his career is done. Last season he had a career high 39 on Jacksonville.
Purdue has faced a few better scorers this season. Allonzo Trier of Arizona and Andrew Rowsey of Marquette are both slightly better. Mathews is still an excellent player and one to watch.
The only other player averaging in double figures is Rob Marberry at 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds. He is a 6’7” junior, giving the Bisons another experienced player that can score. Kenny Cooper and Michael Buckland compliment them well, but this team is mostly Mathews and Marberry. As a team they are averaging just under 77 points per game. They are a strong rebounding team too at 39 boards per game. Given Purdue’s struggles on the defensive glass, it is concerning that they get more than 10 offensive rebounds per game.
There is not a lot of size, however. Eli Pepper is their tallest rotation player at 6’9”, but he leads them in rebounding at 7.5 per game. Both he and Marberry are shooting well over 50% from the field, and Pepper has 35 three-point attempts on the season.
That’s what makes this game interesting. Lipscomb is a versatile team that shoots the ball well, has a dynamic scorer, and rebounds. They can do a little bit of everything, and Cooper is a good distributor. Having already played Tennessee they know they can hang with a team the caliber of Purdue.
I am not ready to call this a trap game, but it is a very good tune-up before getting back into Big Ten play. It could even end up being a surprise quality win. Neither team has played in 9 days and both will want to shake off the rust before conference play. Purdue 79, Lipscomb 70