Jarrod Gaston scored 13 points and Paul Williams added 12 while Cumberland cut a 15-point second-half deficit to four with three minutes to play, but Shawnee State ended both halves with 7-0 runs in a 70-59 victory over the Bulldogs on Thursday in the opening round of the Mid-South Conference Men’s Basketball Championships in Frankfort, Ky.
The season ends for Cumberland (9-21) with the loss in the play-in game of the conference tournament while the Bears (11-18) advance to take on top-seeded University of Pikeville on Friday.
The Bulldogs play poorly at the end of both halves, with SSU taking advantage for a 36-29 lead at the break. The Bears extended the advantage to 56-41 with a 12-0 run midway through the second half led by four points from Jacob Daniels and a 3-pointer by Ethan Moffatt, who finished with a game-high 14 points. Three free throws by J. Murrell with 10:41 to play gave Shawnee State its biggest lead of the contest.
Gaston scored eight straight points for the Bulldogs from there with a pair of trifectas, but Moffatt answered with his own three and Frederick Moore sank two free throws for the Bears, who were 18-for-25 at the foul line.
Two foul shots by DeQuan Bond and Cameron Prather cut the deficit to six before a basket by Gaston and two free throws from Williams made it 63-59 with 3:17 remaining, but those would be the final points of the game for Cumberland, who missed five shots and two free throws and committed one turnover in the last three minutes.
Moffatt made two foul shots for SSU on its next possession and Sean Elliott’s 3-pointer from the corner with 1:44 to play all but sealed the win for the Bears. Elliott’s trifecta came after Gaston missed two free throws in the double bonus for CU.
Williams was 8-for-11 at the foul line for most of his points while Gaston finished 5-of-13 shooting. The Bulldogs were just 5-for-18 from behind the arc while Shawnee State connected on 6-of-11 from 3-point range in the contest and shot 51 percent overall, helping SSU overcome 19 turnovers.
Jorian Hudson netted 13 points and Moore added 12 off the bench for the Bears.
Tylor Owens, Williams and Bond all made field goals in the first two minutes of the contest for Cumberland, which jumped ahead 6-1 in the early going. Williams netted four more foul shots and Josh Wilkerson’s only two points of the game, two free throws at the 13:32 mark of the opening half, helped the Bulldogs to a 16-10 advantage.
A 3-pointer by Owens stretched the CU lead to seven at the 12-minute mark, but the Bears scored 24 of the last 34 points of the half.
Moore and Nick Gouch posted eight of SSU’s 10 points in a 10-0 spurt for the Bears’ first lead of the game, but Cameron Prather’s 3-pointer from the corner tied the contest at 24 with 6:12 left in the period.
Williams added a field goal and Gaston made 1-of-2 foul shots with 3:13 remaining in the half to knot the game again, this time at 29, but Moffatt and Moore both had field goals and Devon Carter made a 3-pointer in the final two minutes for a 36-29 Shawnee State advantage at intermission.