LEBANON, Tenn. – Men's basketball pulled out a tough road victory Thursday night against Cumberland, 73-63. The Bears (16-9, 11-5 MSC), who were receiving votes in the latest NAIA Poll, found themselves locked in a tie game with just over four minutes to play before scoring 13 of the final 15 points to pull away from the Bulldogs (8-18, 4-13 MSC).
Tyler Morgan and Jeremy Bennington each finished with a game-high 18 points in the victory. Morgan also added his MSC-Leading 13th double-double as he pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Andrew Devlin added 13 points while Ian Nixson finished with 10 points and is currently four points shy of joining the Shawnee State 1,000-point club. For the Bulldogs, Charles Stewart led a trio of Cumberland players that reached double figures in scoring with 17 points.
The Bears found themselves in a hole early on as Cumberland used a hot hand from behind the arc to go up by six, 19-13, just eight minutes into the game. The Bulldogs grew that lead to a game-high nine, 30-21, with just over seven minutes to play before the Bears made their move. Trailing by seven, 34-27, with six minutes to go in the opening half, the Bears went on an 11-0 run to help them take a four-point lead into the locker room.
All of the Bears' basket during the 11-0 stretch came in the paint as SSU began to attack the basket. This allowed them to take the lead with three minutes left in the opening half and carry a 39-35 advantage into the break. Another layup and tip-in to start the scoring in the second half by Bennington and Devlin gave the Bears their largest lead of the game, 43-35.
Now it was Cumberland's turn for a rally as the Bulldogs came all the way back to take the lead with 12:41 showing in the clock, 53-52. The lead would change hands on three different occasions starting at that point and continuing up until the five minute mark when the two squads were tied at 60-all.
The Bulldogs got to the free throw line to go back up by one; however, Morgan would answer that basket with a layup in the paint to make the score 62-61 with 4:03 to play and the Bears would never trail again. Morgan's basket jump started a 7-0 run by the Bears that would see them held a six-point lead, 67-61, with just 2:28 left in the game. Shawnee State would concede just two more points the rest of the evening before putting the game away by beating the press defense on several occasions over the final minute-plus.
For the game, Shawnee State controlled the tempo down low as it outscored Cumberland 42-26 in the paint. The Bears also held a 32-22 edge in the rebounding department. SSU finished with 18 assists, including a game-high six from Bennington, against just 16 turnovers on the night.
As a team, the Bears were 29-of-45 from the field (64.4%) while Cumberland was just 23-of-53 (43.4%). However, eight three pointers from the Bulldogs compared to just four from the visitors helped keep the game close late. In addition to the top-four scorers for the Bears, Nick Gouch and Dante Dunston each finished with six points.
Men's basketball will continue the weekend road trip at the University of the Cumberlands on Saturday in a 4 p.m. start. The Bears are currently part of three-way tie for second place in the Mid-South with Pikeville and Georgetown. These three schools are currently two games behind first-place Lindsey Wilson.