Late free throws send CU to victory
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Late free throws send CU to victory
Michael Sweat led the Bulldogs with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in Thursday's 61-58 victory over Bethel. (Credit Steve Wampler)

LEBANON, Tenn. – Trey Caruthers sank two free throws and Graciana Negron added one foul shot in the final 46 seconds, as Cumberland survived an almost six-minute scoring drought in the second half and pulled out a 61-58 victory over Bethel University Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the TranSouth Championships at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.

The Bulldogs (18-11) advance to take on sixth-ranked Martin Methodist in the semifinals of the conference tournament Saturday at 7 p.m. in Pulaski, Tenn.

Michael Sweat led the Bulldogs with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, while Negron added 13 points in just 20 minutes because of foul trouble.

The first half of the contest was both physical and fast-paced, with the teams combining for 30 fouls and 79 points. Bethel’s Jarvis Palmer hit a jumper just inside the 3-point line with one second left in the period, cutting the Cumberland lead to 40-39 at the break.

Both teams went ice cold in the second half, making only 14-of-51 field goals, including 1-for-14 from 3-point range. Cumberland did not score a point for 5:48 of the second half until a baseline jumper from Josh Pierce with 3:30 remaining.

The Wildcats (19-12) did not score for 4:55 during the same stretch and did not make a field goal for 6:38 of the period until a Palmer layup with 2:09 left in the contest. The Palmer basket came on a backdoor cut out of a timeout and put Bethel ahead, 58-56, but Sweat answered with a tough floater in the lane to tie the game on CU’s next possession.

The Bulldogs forced a tough 3-pointer by Sylvester Sipp on BU’s next trip before Caruthers was fouled hard going to the basket. The redshirt sophomore calmly knocked down the two free throws with 46 seconds remaining.

Palmer drove to the basket and was fouled, but missed both foul shots, forcing the Wildcats to foul. Negron made the first but missed the second in the 1-plus-1, but Sweat got the rebound and was fouled. But he missed the front end of the bonus with 21 seconds left.

Bethel hurried up the floor to take a 3-pointer. Freeman Pinkney left his feet to take the trey, but Graciano was there to block the shot. Pinkney tried to adjust and pass, but threw the ball out of bounds, getting his signals crossed up with Andre Crudup.

Walter Simon had a chance to ice for the game for the Bulldogs, but missed two free throws. Crudup’s last-second heave was no good, with Sweat grabbing the last of his 16 rebounds in the game.

Palmer was a one-man wrecking crew for Bethel, netting 20 points with seven rebounds. Alex Emelyanov posted 10 points and was the only other Wildcat in double figures.

Both teams got off to a fast start but cooled from the floor. The Bulldogs led 16-14 eight minutes into the contest behind eight points from Negron, but he had already picked up two fouls and was out for the rest of the half.

Cumberland scored eight straight points midway through the half behind an layup from Caruthers, a 3-pointer from Haris Batalevic and an old-fashioned 3-point play by Simon to take a 26-18 advantage. But the Wildcats answered with a 13-0 run highlighted by five points from Daniel Doyle.

Sweat’s 3-pointer from the top of the key gave CU a 37-32 edge 2:06 before halftime, but he was whistled for a technical foul on the way back down the floor. Crudup made both free throws and Palmer’s jumper just before intermission made it a one-point game at the break.

The half featured five ties and two lead changes along with 30 fouls and 36 free throws. Neither team was all that successful at the line, with Bethel making 11-of-19 and CU knocking down 10-of-17.