PORTSMOUTH – Despite having the game tied at four different points during the second half of play, men's basketball was not to be denied their first Mid-South victory of the season during the opening weekend of conference play. With their 64-62 win, the Bears (3-3, 1-1 MSC) evened both their overall and conference records as they held off Cumberland University (2-3, 0-2 MSC).
The Bears got a double-double from Tyler Morgan in the victory as he scored 15 points and brought down 13 rebounds. Jeremy Bennington led SSU with 17 points for the game, while Tyler Boyles added 12 more to the winning effort. Rebounding played a significant factor in the game as the Bears held a 44-29 advantage in that category.
SSU held a slight edge on the scoreboard for most of the opening 13 minutes. Cumberland stayed within striking distance and held a lead at one point but the teams would end up tied at 18-all with 7:44 to play in the first. Ian Nixson would give his team the lead back with a layup to make the score 20-18, but then the Bulldogs would go on a run. Over the next 2:18 of play, Cumberland scored 12 unanswered points, giving them a 10 point lead with just over five minutes to go in the opening half.
The Bears would get to work in the paint to cut into that lead as they went on an 8-0 run to answer back. Baskets in the paint by Andrew Devlin, Morgan and Boyles – plus two more free throws from Morgan would bring SSU to within four points. The Bulldogs would hold that edge going into the break, as they lead 36-32 at halftime.
Shawnee State would tie the score for the first time in the second half at 42-all with 11:58 remaining to play. The Bears would then take the lead on their next possession after a technical foul was issued to Cumberland. They would stretch that lead to as many as six, at 54-48 with 7:16 to play. However, the Bulldogs would go on a 9-0 run to take a three point lead, 57-54, with 3:56 left on the clock.
A three from Bennington would knot the score at 57-all, but Cumberland would come right back two trips later and draw the contact and convert both of its free throw opportunities to retake the lead. However, that did not last for long as Devon Carter hit a three two possessions later to give the Bears a 60-59 lead with 2:43 to play.
The Bears took a three point edge with just 48 seconds to play after Morgan hit both of his free throws. Cumberland would again answer just nine seconds later with a three as the teams were all tied with 39 seconds to play at 62-all.
This would also be the last time the score would be tied. On the next trip down the court, the Bears needed three offensive rebounds to keep the possession alive. However, on the third rebound on that trip down the court, Carter was fouled with six seconds to play. He would calmly put both of those free throws in to give his team a two point lead.
That score would end up being the final as the Bulldogs played for overtime and went for the layup on the last ditch effort. Bodies went to the deck and the Cumberland bench screamed for the foul call. However, the referees did not call anything and Shawnee State held on for the victory.
Men's basketball will be back at home next Tuesday for Mid-South meeting with rival Rio Grande. That game will follow the women's game and is scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip-off.