By David Boclair
Garrison Mathews played one of his best games. Kenny Cooper played the hero.
Mathews scored a career-high 44 points, the most ever by a Lipscomb player in the NCAA era, and Cooper scored five points and had a steal in the final 25 seconds as Lipscomb outlasted North Carolina State 94-93 in a thrilling NIT quarterfinal at Raleigh, N.C.
The Bisons (28-7) trailed by two when Cooper stole an inbound pass and then moments later knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer. N.C. State went back in front with 10 seconds to go but Cooper’s short jumper with 1.7 seconds to play was the game-winner.
Prior to that sequence, Cooper, a junior guard out of Franklin Road Academy, had scored just seven points.
“It was an awesome win for our program, I’ll tell you that,” coach Casey Alexander said, via the school’s athletics website. “I’m completely proud of guys that hung in there, guys that got us off to great starts, and guys that finished it up for us. That last four or five minutes with the noise, what we had to play through, and coming from behind — these guys made plays.”
With the victory, Lipscomb advanced to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York, where it will face Wichita State on Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPN).
Unlike Cooper, Mathews scored almost from start to finish. He surpassed his previous career-high by one point when he made 14 of 24 shots from the field, including eight of 13 3-pointers, and eight of 11 free throws. The senior guard scored 20 of his team’s 38 first-half points and added 24 in the second half, when Lipscomb made 61.8 percent of its shots (21-for-34).
His 44 points were the most ever by an opposing player at Reynolds Coliseum, which opened in 1949.
“We’re a good team,” Alexander said. “We’ve won big road games already. We have a lot of experience and every time they came over to the huddle they thought they were going to win. There’s not much a coach can say or do about that; that’s these guys believing in what they’re doing and performing when their number is called and getting the result that we wanted. I’m really proud.”
Photo from Getty Images.