LEBANON, Tenn. – Graciano Negron posted his second straight 23-point performance, but the effort wasn’t enough to help Cumberland University overcome the hot shooting of No. 7 Martin Methodist College on Senior Day Saturday at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center, as the Bulldogs dropped a 97-87 decision to the TranSouth Conference-leading RedHawks.
The loss was the second straight at home for the Bulldogs (15-11, 9-5 TranSouth) after starting the season 9-0. With the defeat and a Freed-Hardeman University win over Mid-Continent University, Cumberland drops to fourth in the league with two games remaining on the schedule. CU will host Blue Mountain College Monday night in a game that was postponed on February 10 and will close the regular season at MCU on February 26.
Negron, who was named the Music City Star of the Game, scored at least 20 points for the third time this season and reached double figures for the 14th time in the last 18 games. Kyle Upton added 15 points for the Bulldogs, while Michael Sweat and Trey Caruthers contributed 12 and 11, respectively.
Cumberland went 10-for-22 from the 3-point line, but the 46 percent was no match for Martin Methodist’s 60 percent from the floor.
The teams swapped the lead four times in the early minutes of the first half before RedHawks (27-1, 13-1) took the lead for good at the 16:39 mark of the first half. The Bulldogs kept it close over the next five minutes until MMC used a 9-2 run to open up a nine-point lead with 7 1/2 minutes left in the opening half.
CU cut the deficit to two three times before the break, but never could regain the lead, trailing by four at halftime.
The RedHawks opened the second half with seven straight points before Cumberland senior Lindal Yarbrough scored his first basket of the game. The Nashville, Tenn., native finished with eight points and four assists.
Martin Methodist continued its dominating performance with the next six points to open up a double-digit lead that the Bulldogs would get under 10 points only three times in the final 17 minutes of the contest.
Five RedHawks scored in double figures with LaQuantis Stewart and James Justice totaling 23 and 21 points, respectively.
The 97 points were the most given up by the Bulldogs since MMC posted 99 in CU’s overtime victory in Pulaski, Tenn., last February 20.