» Subscribe Today!
The Power of Information
The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Article
VOL. 43 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 22, 2019

Mathews’ choice of sports paying dividends for Lipscomb

By Chip Cirillo

Print | Front Page | Email this story

Senior guard Garrison Mathews, a former Franklin standout, is Lipscomb’s career scoring leader in the Division I era. He also set a conference record for career 3-pointers on Saturday.

-- Photograph Courtesy Of Lipscomb Athletics

Garrison Mathews was a good player at Franklin High School. Turns out, he was just getting started.

The 6-foot-5 guard has gone on to become Lipscomb University’s career scoring leader in the Division I era with 2,226 points entering Wednesday’s game at Florida Gulf Coast. The senior ranks fourth in Atlantic Sun Conference history.

“Nobody expected him to have the career that he’s had,” Bisons coach Casey Alexander says. “It’s pretty remarkable what he’s done.”

Mathews is also the career 3-point leader for Lipscomb and the ASUN with 317.

He played football and basketball at Franklin, but his numbers took off once he began to specialize in basketball at Lipscomb.

“I don’t think he’s a late bloomer,” Alexander says. “It was the first time in his life that he started to spend all of his time focusing on basketball. That also allowed him to change his body. He became much leaner, much more fit.”

Mathews was thrust into Lipscomb’s starting lineup early in his freshman year after the Bisons’ best player, Josh Williams, suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

“He got a lot of opportunities and made the most of those,” Alexander adds. “And then everything has just kind of taken off since then.”

Mathews has become a better shooter, and he’s in better shape than his high school days as he transformed from a football body to a basketball body.

“I can run up and down the floor and not get as tired, and I’m able to play through some fatigue,” says Mathews, a former wide receiver and tight end in football.

Mathews has undergone seven offseason surgeries since arriving at Lipscomb. “I had double hernias, shoulder surgeries and hand surgeries,” Mathews points out. “Four of them were after my sophomore year and three of them this past offseason. Yea, it’s been tough, but it’s all right.”

Mathews played the last six games of his sophomore season with a broken hand.

Jamie Wilson, Mathews’ coach at Franklin, isn’t surprised by his former player’s success, although even he couldn’t predict the records the Lipscomb guard would break.

“I remember telling Casey when he called about him, ‘Listen, whoever signs him is going to have a gem. A year from now they’re going to say this dude was a steal,’” Wilson recalls. “And I would think that statement has been true to par.”

One of the reasons Wilson felt Mathews would be a gem was his physical play.

Mathews’ grandfather was a member of the Ole Miss national champion football squad of 1962.

-- Photograph Courtesy Of Lipscomb Athletics

“He didn’t back down from any contact,” Wilson says. “Nothing seemed to rattle him as far as any physical play or a cheap shot. One of the toughest transitions for high school kids when they get to college is the physicality is so much greater that it takes kids a year or two to handle it.”

Mathews leads the ASUN in scoring at 19.5 points per game, and he’s third in free throw percentage at 85 percent. He’s also sixth in 3-point field goal percentage at 40.3.

“He gets a lot of finishes at the rim, he makes 3s, he gets to the free-throw line so because he’s so versatile offensively he’s able to just kind of pile up points sometimes quietly throughout a game,” Alexander explains. “He totally scores in a lot of different ways.”

Lipscomb doesn’t design isolation plays for Mathews or put him in matchup positions in its motion offense. Mathews just finds different ways to score within the offense.

“He’s got the right mentality for a scorer,” Alexander says. “He’s very confident, he’s not easily rattled, and he doesn’t really care what the level of competition is.

“He’s got a short memory for bad shooting nights and so all of those things lend itself toward him being a guy that wants the ball and most often delivers,” he adds.

Mathews really delivered for the Bisons in last year’s ASUN Championship when he scored 33 points, including seven 3-pointers, in a 108-96 win over Florida Gulf Coast that sent Lipscomb to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Mathews is working on becoming a better defender, which is difficult because he exerts so much energy on offense. He’s also worked hard to develop a midrange jump shot.

His shot selection has improved, giving him a better percentage from beyond the arc.

He’s helped the Bisons (21-5, 12-1 ASUN) win 12 of their last 13 games, putting them in a first-place tie with Liberty (23-5, 12-1) in the conference standings.

The Bisons returned their top six players from last season and former Battle Ground Academy star Nathan Moran is back from a hip injury.

“We returned, I think, 92 percent of our scoring and, like, 88 percent of our minutes,” Alexander says.

“So, we’re extremely old. We’ve got a bunch of guys that have won a bunch of games.”

Rob Marberry (14.9 ppg), Kenny Cooper (9.7 ppg, 3.9 apg) and 6-8 Eli Pepper (8 ppg, 7.7 rpg) form a solid supporting cast around Mathews.

Returning to the NCAA Tournament is a big goal for the Bisons. “That’s the gold standard for a season at this level,” Alexander says. Lipscomb lost to 2017 national champion North Carolina 84-66 in the first round last season. “It was fun and they were good guys,’ Mathews recalls.

Lipscomb prides itself on its man-to-man defense. The Bisons ranks 18th nationally in defensive efficiency.

“That’s really what’s winning us games right now,” Mathews says. “We’re a huge helping team, so if somebody gets beat another guy is there to help and rotate. A lot of us are experienced guys so that’s huge on the defensive end.”

Mathews has watched a few of Franklin’s games this season. His alma mater is the District 11-AAA regular-season champion with a 23-6 overall record, led by guard Reese Glover (23.6 ppg).

“Whenever you see (his shot), he’ll have, like, three guys on him and still make it,” Mathews explains. “I mean, it’s incredible to just watch. Sometimes I even learn from him, just some of the shot fakes he does and so I can use that on my offensive game. He’s a great player.”

So is Mathews, who has helped Lipscomb post three straight 20-win seasons for the first time since 1998-2001 in the NAIA days.

“You hope he’s not a once-in-a-lifetime kind of guy, but he might be,” Alexander says.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & RSS:
Sign-Up For Our FREE email edition
Get the news first with our free weekly email
TNLedger.com Knoxville Editon