JACKSON, Tenn. – Josh Pierce’s two free throws with 8.7 seconds remaining put Cumberland ahead and a tip-in by Union’s Skyler Vaden was disallowed, giving the Bulldogs a thrilling 66-65 victory here Monday night in men’s basketball action at DeLay Gymnasium.
The Bulldogs (19-7, 9-4) held a five-point edge with 2:35 remaining after Pierce, a 33 percent foul shooter for the season, knocked down two shots. But Cumberland did not score on four straight possessions, allowing Union to regain the lead with a pair of 3-point plays, the first by Vaden and the second from David Lane with 22.9 seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs worked the ball around and Pierce was fouled on the baseline with 8.7 seconds left. After a timeout by Union, the Valdosta, Ga., senior cooled nailed two more free throws and CU regained the lead. Lane drove the ball the length of the floor, was forced into the air under the baseline and passed to Dani Marti, who took a high-arching jumper that did not hit the rim.
Vaden tipped in the missed shot and one official called the shot good, but after a meeting of all three officials the basket was waved off, giving the Bulldogs their sixth consecutive victory overall and first over Union in the last six meetings.
The game featured 16 ties and 27 lead changes. Cumberland led by nine in the first five minutes of the game, but from there Union’s six-point edge late in the first half was the largest lead for either team.
Jerret Towns scored a season-high 17 points off the bench, including three 3-pointers, while Johnny Williams added a season-best 16 points with six rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes. Backup point guard Charles Stewart missed his third straight game with an injury.
Michael Sweat netted 11 points and Lamar Brinkley posted 10 before fouling out with just over a minute to play.
Lane led five Union players in double figures with 14 points, while Vaden posted 12 points and 10 rebounds. Anthony Freeman, Leventrice Gray and Antoine Hall all scored 12 points as well.
The Bulldogs started quickly and led 11-2 in the first five minutes, including 3-pointers from Williams and Sweat, but Union answered with a 12-0 run with a 3-point play by Gray and a 3-pointer from Vaden.
The two teams put together small run for most of the rest of the half – 6-0 for Union to take a 27-21 advantage before CU answered with seven straight points, including a 3-point play by Williams with 1:13 to play in the half. Hall’s 3-pointer from the wing gave Union a 30-29 edge at the break.
Cumberland hosts Bethel University at 8 p.m. Thursday before traveling to sixth-ranked Martin Methodist on Saturday to finish a stretch of five games in 10 days.