Men's Basketball

Three Kentuckians part of first Lipscomb team to make men’s NCAA Tournament

Kentucky All-Star Matt Rose went inside for a basket during the Kentucky-Indiana boys all star game on Friday June 12, 2015 in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky All-Star Matt Rose went inside for a basket during the Kentucky-Indiana boys all star game on Friday June 12, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Lexington Herald-Leader

Lipscomb’s 108-96 win over Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun men’s basketball tournament championship game Sunday insured that the Bisons will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

Garrison Mathews led Lipscomb with 33 points on 10-for-18 shooting (7-for-14 from the three-point line), but a pair of Kentucky natives were next in line on the stat sheet.

Rose, a 6-foot-7 forward who was a star at Lexington Christian Academy, scored 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting; he was 3-for-5 from behind the three-point line in only 16 minutes off the bench. This was his first season playing for the Lipscomb after sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer rules after he transferred from Samford University following his freshman season in 2016.

LCA's Matt Rose, went baseline to score as Lexington Christian defeated Lexington Catholic 54-44 on Thursday February 12, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Mark Cornelison Lexington Herald-Leader

Eli Pepper, who graduated from Caldwell County and started for the Bisons, had 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting in the win.

Zach Flener, a Murray High School graduate, also is part of Lipscomb’s team but did not play. He averaged 5.3 points as a junior for the Murray boys’ team that finished as the All “A” Classic runner-up and made the Sweet Sixteen in 2016. He is the son of former Lexington Catholic Coach Bart Flener, who now serves as the superintendent of the Russellville Independent School District.

Florida Gulf Coast, the top-seeded team in the tournament and the host of the finals, nearly overcame a 32-point deficit after outscoring the Bisons 65-48 in the second half. Lipscomb, the No. 2 seed, split its regular-season meetings with the Eagles.

Rose was a finalist for Mr. Basketball and a member of the Kentucky All-Star roster in 2015. He averaged 22.1 points and 8.6 rebounds for LCA as a senior and graduated as the program’s second-leading scorer (1,506) and rebounder (654).

Pepper, who graduated from Caldwell County, averaged 17.6 points and 14.3 rebounds for the Tigers as a senior and recorded the only triple-double in school history. He was also an All-State wide receiver for the football team.

Lipscomb is a private liberal arts university in Nashville.

Lipscomb forward Eli Pepper (22) dunks in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Calvin Mattheis) Calvin Mattheis AP

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps