LEBANON, Tenn. – Johnny Williams scored 14 points with seven rebounds and seven assists for Cumberland and Jerret Towns added 13 points off the bench in a nail-biting 82-81 victory over 17th-ranked Freed-Hardeman in men’s basketball action Saturday at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.
The Bulldogs (10-3, 2-0 TranSouth) held the lead for almost the entire second half, including 78-71 with 2:18 to play, after nine ties and 10 lead changes in the opening period. Charles Stewart missed a driving layup on CU’s next possession and then Williams made 1-of-2 foul shots with 1:08 to play, giving the home team a 79-75 edge.
Mark Brown nailed a 3-pointer from the wing for the Lions (11-5, 1-1), cutting the deficit to one, before Stewart connected on 1-of-2 attempts at the charity stripe with 21 seconds remaining. But Michael Sweat, CU’s leading scorer who managed just five points in the game, tipped out the missed foul shot and Williams made both attempts, pushing the lead back to 81-78.
But Freed-Hardeman would not go away and the smallest man on the court, Anthony Sampson, made a 3-pointer from the top of the key, again making it a one-point game. Williams was then fouled with 4.2 seconds left but took an inadvertent knee-to-the-head from FHU’s Vincent Dotson. Williams was attended to by trainers, giving Lions head coach Jason Shelton the opportunity to select another foul shooter from the five players on the court for Cumberland.
Towns, the team’s leading foul shooter at 85 percent, was selected, but he rimmed out both chances and FHU called its final timeout with 3.8 seconds left. On the ensuing in-bounds play, Kyle Teichmann went from the top of the key down into the paint and set a pick. Chandler Mack came off the pick but was never able to receive the long pass, as Towns and Sweat both converged on the ball and Towns knocked it away.
Unfortunately for CU the ball went toward the FHU endline, where Teichmann ran it down, but his fall-away 3-pointer fell well short and four players, two from each team, collided trying to get the miss just as the buzzer sounded. It marks the fifth time in the last 11 meetings the game has been decided by three points or less, including two overtime defeats for the Bulldogs in Henderson in 2009.
Kyle Upton scored 10 points for CU but spent much of the second half on the bench with foul trouble. Andrew Ayodeji made a trio of 3-pointers and netted 11, while Lamar Brinkley posted nine points, all in the first half, and six rebounds.
Sampson recorded 13 points, six boards and 13 assists, leading five Lions players in double figures. Teichmann led the way with 21 points, but the nation’s sixth-leading scorer earned all of them. Mack finished with 17 points and Reginald Gilmore and Jonathan Milewski each recorded 11.
Cumberland held a 44-43 advantage after a back-and-forth opening half. Neither team held a lead of more than five points and both shot better than 50 percent from the field (55 for FHU, 52 for CU).
Three separate 7-0 spurts, two by the Lions and one by the Bulldogs, were featured, with FHU scoring seven straight after the home team opened the game with five consecutive points.
Stewart and Ayodeji both hit layups and Ayodeji nailed a 3-pointer for a 30-25 CU lead with 8:32 left in the half, but FHU answered with another 7-0 run that included a 3-pointer and two free throws by Milewski and a layup from Anthony Sampson for a 36-34 Lions lead with 4:06 to play in the period.
An old-fashioned 3-point play from Towns and a layup by Stewart put the Bulldogs ahead at the break. rinkley led CU with nine points and Ayodeji and Towns both came off the bench to score eight, as CU posted a 22-6 advantage in bench scoring.
Milewski paced the Lions with 11 points, including a trio of trifectas, Mack netted 10 and Teichmann posted nine.
Cumberland hosts Blue Mountain College in a men’s and women’s doubleheader on Thursday starting at 6 p.m.