PORTSMOUTH – Men's basketball found itself in a back-and-forth affair in its home and conference opener Thursday evening. The Bears gave their nationally-ranked foes everything they wanted, but just could close the gap in the waning minutes of the second half against No. 25 University of the Cumberlands, falling 67-63. With the win, Cumberlands (6-0, 1-0 MSC) remains unbeaten, while Shawnee State (2-3, 0-1 MSC) will look to rebound Saturday vs. Cumberland University.
The Bears got a game-high 20 points from Tyler Morgan. He also nearly finished with a double-double as he pulled down nine boards, including four on the offensive glass. Ian Nixson also poured in 17 points and assisted on a team-high five other baskets.
After trading threes to start the game, Shawnee State went on a 7-0 and held a 10-3 advantage just under four minutes into the game. However, the Patriots would answer right back and knotted the score at 12-all with 12:49 to play in the opening half. The teams would see the score knotted up at six more points during the final minutes of the opening half.
The last tie came at 27-all with just 1:21 to play in the opening half after two free throws by Morgan, who was 6-of-8 from the line on the evening. He would add another layup with just under a minute to play in the half, but Cumberlands would answer with their own layup from reigning MSC Player of the Week Antonio Bumpus and take a one point lead into their locker room, 30-29. In total, the opening half was tied at eight different points and saw five lead changes.
Coming out of the locker room, Shawnee State would tie the game at 30 with a free throw from Morgan but after a jumper put the Patriots up by two with 17:38, the visitors would hold the lead for the remainder of play.
Shawnee State was down by as many as nine with 5:51 to play and the score 56-47 in favor of the guests. Nonetheless, the Bears refused to go away without a battle and went on a 7-0 run to bring the game back to 56-54 with 3:52 to play.
The Patriots converted on their next two trips down the court and held at least a two possession lead for the remainder of the contest. The Bears had their chances to turn up the heat with a basket, but everytime they threatened, Cumberlands would come up with the needed defensive stop to swing the momentum back in their favor.
The Bears shot 38-percent from the field, compared to just under 30-percent for the Cumberlands. However, the visitors forced 19 turnovers compared to SSU's 14 caused. The Patriots also got to the line 31 times as opposed to just 20 free throw attempts for the Bears.
Men's basketball will be back in action this Saturday looking to even their Mid-South record vs. Cumberland University. That contest is scheduled for a 4 p.m. tip that will follow the women's game at 2 p.m.