PORTSMOUTH – A late charge from men's basketball was denied by the University of the Cumberlands Thursday night inside Waller Gymnasium, 71-67. The Patriots (13-7, 5-5 MSC) led by as many as 10 points midway through the second half before a surge from the Bears (8-13, 2-8 MSC) was halted by late foul shooting from UC.
The Bears got a game-high 14 points from Mark Bryant, while Trevor Banks added 12 more points. Both of these players scored 10 of their points during the second half of play. Andrew Bendolph added nine points. Three players (Andrew Devlin, Dante Dunston and Devon Carter each scored seven points. The Patriots also had a balanced scoring attack as six players scored nine or more points. UC was led by 13 points from Taylor Gover, 12 of which came on 3-point shooting.
Neither side was able to gain much of an upper hand in the opening 20 minutes. The two teams traded the lead five times and saw the score even at seven other points in the opening half. The largest lead in the opening half ended up being the 31-26 edge that the Patriots carried into the halftime locker room.
Midway through the second half, UC had built its lead up to a game-high 10 points as it led 53-43 with just over 10 minutes to play. The Bears quickly responded with a quick 6-0 run that featured four points from Banks and another basket from Kai Turner, trimming the deficit to four points.
Cumberlands answered with a 3-pointer but Nick Gouch would get in the lane for two points, while Bryant was fouled after hitting a 3-pointer right before the final media timeout. He would make that free throw to complete his four-point play and get the Bears within two, 57-55, with 5:27 to play.
Three additional times in the final five minutes the Bears would cut the deficit down to just two points but they could never get any closer. A 3-pointer from Banks made the score 60-58 but UC would get the line on their next offensive possession to put its lead back at four as the clock ticked under four minutes to play.
The Patriots made it a five-point game with 2:31 to play but a basket from Carter brought the Bears back to within three after a basket with just over a minute to play. The Bears forced a missed shot on their next defensive stand but were unable to come away with an offensive rebound. UC would then get to the line in that same trip as the clock showed 34 seconds and the Patriots would knock down the second of two free throws to go up 65-61.
Once again, Carter answered on the offensive end for the Bears to make it a 65-63 game with 26 seconds to play. On the ensuing inbound play, the Patriots released one of their players to the basket after a timeout and finished the easy layup to bring their lead back to four.
On the next two offensive trips down the court, the Bears got a free throw from Bryant and two more from Banks, while UC split its free throws after an SSU in between the Bears' shooters to make it 68-66 with six seconds to play.
The Bears would again foul on the inbounds and again the Patriots split their two free throws. This put the ball in Banks' hands with his team down three and just a few seconds remaining. However, he would not have the chance for the game-tying shot as he was fouled before he could get a shot off outside of the arc. Banks would make his first and miss the second but the Bears were unable to come down with the offensive board as UC made two free throws at the other end before the final buzzer sounded.
The Bears shot 41-percent from the field (23-of-55), compared just 33-percent (19-of-57) for the Patriots. However, Cumberlands was shooting the lights out from three all night it seemed as it went 14-of-30 from 3-point land, while SSU was just 4-of-9 in their limited chances on the evening.
Men's basketball will be back in action this Saturday as part of the University's Homecoming Weekend. That game will get underway at approximately 4:15 p.m. as the Homecoming Crowning will take place in between the men's and women's doubleheader.