Lipscomb entered Allen Arena on Wednesday with something to prove, and they did just that in an 82-77 win against a talented Navy Midshipmen team.
In a rare morning matchup, Lipscomb Academy students from Kindergarden through 5th grade were given a field trip to walk across campus and cheer on the Bisons.
The win moves Lipscomb to a 5-2 record and gives them an undefeated 4-0 mark at Allen Arena on the year.
The Bisons were led by 18 points each from sophomores Jacob Ognacevic and Derrin Boyd along with 14 from senior center Ahsan Asadullah.
A sixth-year Bison from Atlanta, Asadullah energized the large contingent of Lipscomb Academy students early on with four points in the first three minutes.
That early scoring spurt opened up an efficient offensive first half for the Bisons in which Asadullah, Boyd, and Ognacevic combined for 29 points.
The Bisons shot 53.3% from the field against Navy’s matchup zone and converted on 86% of their attempts from the line in the half.
Lipscomb didn’t slow down Navy enough to pull away through the first 20 minutes, though.
The Midshipmen exploited Lipscomb’s perimeter defense by hitting seven first-half threes on 70% shooting from beyond the arc. Navy also shot 50% from the field in the half.
The Bisons went into the break leading 41-37.
Things were tight at the break, but Lipscomb came out of the gates with a 13-3 run to start the second half.
Boyd and sophomore guard Trae Benham led the run with 11 total points in the first six minutes of the half.
Navy wouldn’t go away, though, and tied the game up at 59-59 with 8:35 to go.
The Bisons and Midshipmen traded baskets for the following minutes but Lipscomb got out to a 70-63 lead behind nine timely points by junior guard Tommy Murr.
That was all the convincing Lennie Acuff needed to keep the Alabama-born wing on the floor for the rest of the contest.
Murr replaced Benham and sparked a 9-0 Bisons run that was capped off by an and-1 finish by Asadullah.
The run put Lipscomb up 72-63 with 2:08 to go in the contest.
True to character, Navy wouldn’t go away. The Lipscomb lead was cut to just three with under a minute left.
Boyd and Pruitt iced the game with a few late free throws, capping off a five-point Bisons win.
Lipscomb wins in an unfamiliar way
Lipscomb came into Wednesday’s contest with four wins, but they hadn’t gotten one quite like they did on this occasion.
The Bisons’ offense was still the catalyst for Wednesday’s win, but it came from a different place than it had in the past.
Throughout the early part of the season, Lipscomb had been driven by their guard play, but the bigs ran the show against Navy.
Ognacevic continued his impressive early-season pace with an 18-point performance, while Asadullah chipped in 14.
Lipscomb’s bigs were more than effective, but when Acuff’s team needed a bucket, it came from someone who had been quiet through Lipscomb’s first six games.
Murr quickly eclipsed his average of less than two points per game with nine second-half points, seven of which contributed to the Bisons’ 9-0 run late in the second half.
Winning in different ways is certainly important in college basketball and Lipscomb did that on Wednesday afternoon.
Three Quick Takes:
Ahsan Asadullah had his best outing of the season
Heading into Wednesday afternoon’s game, Lipscomb had been impressive, but something was missing–Asadullah’s production.
The three-time All-ASUN first teamer had been averaging just 6.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 37.5% from the field.
The veteran big man also hadn’t put together a double-digit scoring outing on the season.
Asadullah changed that with over five minutes to go in the first half of Wednesday’s game.
The senior center finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks while shooting 50% from the field.
Wednesday afternoon marked Asadullah’s first double-double of the 2022-23 season.
Lipscomb has proven not to be reliant on the 6-foot-9 big man, but when they can get production from him like they did on Wednesday, it is a significant boost for the 5-2 Bisons.
Lennie Acuff seems to be opening up to more two-big lineups
Over the first few weeks of Lipscomb’s season, Matt Schner occupied the vast majority of minutes at the four spot. Acuff seemed fully intent with running primarily small ball lineups until Jacob Ognacevic forced him to think otherwise.
The sophomore forward has been impressive enough throughout the early part of the season to where it has become difficult for Acuff to keep him off the floor despite the disadvantages of playing two true big men.
Generally, playing two big men clogs up the lane offensively, but Asadullah’s passing ability and Ognacevic’s ability to stretch the floor provide reason to believe that the bigger lineups can be an effective option for Lipscomb.
The two bigs are clearly becoming more comfortable playing off of each other.
When Asadullah is on the perimeter, he surveys the floor for Ognacevic in a mismatch and when Ognacevic plays out there, his ability to stretch the floor opens up the lane for Asadullah.
The advantages of the lineup are obvious. Playing the two forwards that are 6-foot-7 or above allows the Bisons to have their two best players on the floor at the same time and gives them a high upside on the glass.
The equally obvious concern lies defensively, though.
Although when both bigs are on the floor there is plenty of size, there is less mobility on the perimeter that can prove disadvantageous when playing against quicker forwards.
Ognacevic isn’t completely immobile, but doesn’t move quite as well as Schner does on the perimeter. That is likely what scared Acuff out of featuring those lineups in the first place.
In total, Ognacevic and Asadullah totaled 61 minutes and 32 points throughout the afternoon.
Lipscomb has to find a way to play their most talented players in long spurts, and the two-big lineup may be its answer.
Lipscomb’s defense took a step back
The key to Lipscomb’s impressive stretch in the early part of the season was their defensive improvement.
Acuff’s team held their last three opponents to just 64.3 points per game on 38.5% shooting from the field and 31.9% from 3-point range.
Navy provided a different challenge, though.
The Midshipmen entered Wednesday’s game shooting 41.1% from 3-point range, the 11th highest percentage in the country.
Lipscomb was prolific on the offensive end all afternoon, but couldn’t immediately pull away because of their inability to defend the 3-point line.
The Midshipmen were able to keep pace with the Bisons behind seven first-half threes on 7-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
Navy also totaled eight offensive rebounds in the first half which led to five second-chance points.
Where Acuff’s team did thrive, though, was their ability to turn defense into offense.
The Bisons forced 19 turnovers and scored 24 points off of them.
Lipscomb’s defense was good enough to win tonight, but will likely need to improve for the Bisons to be successful long-term.
The win moves the Bisons to 5-2 as they look ahead to Monday night’s contest against the Trevecca Nazarene Trojans on Monday.
That game will be broadcast live on The Bison, Lipscomb’s on-campus radio station.