PULASKI, Tenn. – Kyle Upton’s drive down the baseline with 29.4 seconds left put Cumberland ahead by three and Michael Sweat hit one plus the bonus with 5.3 seconds remaining, as the Bulldogs survived against sixth-ranked Martin Methodist, 76-73, here Saturday in men’s basketball action at the Curry Christian Life Center.
The Bulldogs (21-7, 11-4 TranSouth) won their eighth straight game overall and defeated the RedHawks (22-6, 11-3) for the first time in five tries. The game featured 14 ties and 10 lead changes, all in the second half.
Sweat put the Bulldogs on his back in the last five minutes, breaking an almost four-minute drought with a basket plus the foul with 3:41 remaining, tying the game at 66. He nailed a 3-pointer on the next trip and added two free throws the next time down.
Josh Pierce hit one foul shot with 2:06 to play for a 72-69 edge, but after a Jeremy Rodgers field goal cut the CU lead to one with 1:52 to play, neither team scored until the final seconds.
Cumberland had the ball out of bounds on the far sideline with 32.9 seconds left and only seven on the shot clock. The first option wasn’t open but Upton took the pass in the corner and beat his defender down the baseline for a layup and a 3-point edge.
Ree McCrory was fouled on a loose ball and hit two free throws for the RedHawks with 13.7 seconds remaining. CU got the ball in-bounds but had to use a timeout with 8.0 seconds left. On the ensuing in-bounds Jerret Towns fired a long pass down the court where Sweat outjumped a defender and was fouled, making the 1-plus-1 with 5.3 seconds left.
MMC’s desperation 3-pointer fell short and Sweat grabbed the rebound as the buzzer sounded for the victory.
Sweat finished with a game-high 24 points and Johnny Williams scored a collegiate-best 21 points, each making three 3-pointers. Williams added six assists as well and played 37 minutes, as backup Charles Stewart missed his fourth straight game with an injury.
McCrory led five RedHawks in double figures with 18 points, but CU limited MMC to just 38 percent shooting in the second half. James Justice finished with 14 points and Laquantis posted 12, while Rodgers and EJ Kirby each netted 10.
MMC put together a 9-2 spurt early in the game, including a 3-pointer from McCrory and two buckets by Rodgers, to take a 20-11 advantage. Kirby netted five straight points for the RedHawks, who pushed the lead to 10 with 11:19 to play in the half.
CU cut the deficit to five with a field goal and a free throw by Lamar Brinkley, but a 3-pointer from Justice and a layup by Demario Williams pushed the advantage back to 10 with 6:14 left in the period. MMC led 45-34 after a bucket from Stewart at the 2:12 mark, but Cumberland scored the last seven points of the half with a 3-pointer from Sweat and two field goals by Williams, the last one in traffic with English off the glass from the senior, cutting the MMC lead to 45-41 at the break.
Both teams scorched the nets in the half, with CU shooting 55 percent and MMC hitting at a 58 percent clip, including several easy buckets. Williams netted 11 for CU while Brinkley posted 10 and Sweat added nine. McCrory led the RedHawks in the half with 12 points, including seven of the team’s first 14 points, while Justice recorded 10, with two straight 3-pointers in the middle of the half, both from well behind the arc.
Cumberland does not play again until next Saturday, hosting Mid-Continent in the regular season finale. Eight players will be honored between games for Senior Day.