WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. – Men's basketball was topped by the University of the Cumberlands, 83-79, on the road Saturday afternoon. The Bears (16-10, 11-6 MSC), who were receiving votes in the latest NAIA Poll, and Patriots (18-10, 9-9 MSC) were tied with just over three minutes to play before UC put its seal on the game late.
All afternoon, the Bears just couldn't seem to find an answer for the three-headed scoring machine of the Patriots. Antonio Bumpus led the hosts with 26 points while Benito Santiago, Jr. and James Archie finished with 23 and 19 points, respectively. Four Bears finished in double figures, led by Tyler Morgan's double-double with team highs in points (20) and rebounds (13). Jeremy Bennington finished the game with 18 points while Ian Nixson and Trevor Banks finished with 12 and 11, respectively. Nixson's point total made him the 17th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point milestone.
Those two early threes from Nixson to reach the milestone also helped the Bears jump out to an 11-5 lead in the opening minutes but the Patriots would make their own run to counter and go up 14-13 just eight minutes in. Banks hit a three right around the 11 minute mark to give his team a two-point lead and the Bears would not trail for the next 10 minutes. The Patriots retook the lead momentarily with under a minute to play in the opening half, but a three from Bennington gave the Bears a 39-38 lead after 20 minutes.
The Bears stretched their lead to four in the opening minutes of the second half and would hold that lead with 13:59 on the clock and the score 53-49. However, the next four minutes would see the Bears held scoreless while the Patriots ran off nine unanswered points to take a five-point lead, 58-53, with exactly 10 minutes to play.
The Bears would rally back and take a 61-60 lead with 7:14 to go in the ballgame. The two teams would find themselves tied at 63 and 69-all, with the last tie in the game coming with 3:53 on the clock following an Andrew Devlin dunk. The Patriots answered with a three by Santiago, Jr. and they would hold the lead the rest of the way.
The contest remained a one possession game with just 1:18 on the game clock after Bennington got to the free throw line and made the game 77-74. However, another three for the Patriots – this one coming from Archie – would put the hosts up by five. The Bears missed their three at the other end with just 33 seconds on the game clock and SSU down by five, the team was forced to foul. The Patriots would then seal the victory on the charity stripe.
The Bears actually outshot the Patriots from the field, converting 32 of their 63 attempts while UC went 27-of-58 from the field. UC did make one more three than the Bears on four more attempts. However, the big difference came at the free throw line where the Patriots were 18-of-26 for the game. On the other hand, the Bears took just 10 free throws and made only half.
Men's basketball will return to Portsmouth this week for its final two contests in its home Gym. On Thursday, the Bears will host UVA-Wise in an 8 p.m. start before taking on Pikeville Saturday at 4 p.m. A matchup at Rio Grande will await the team on Monday before final preparations get under way for the Mid-South Tournament just two weekends from today.