PIKEVILLE – It took a 9-2 run over the final three minutes for the second-ranked University of Pikeville men’s basketball team to put away upset-minded Cumberland (Tenn.) 86-78 on Saturday in the East Kentucky Expo Center.
K.K. Simmons poured in a team-high 24 points and Macari Brooks and Christian Leach both chipped in with 18. The Bears (16-1, 3-1 MSC) needed them all as the Phoenix hit seven first-half threes at 58.3 percent.
Despite falling behind by six midway through the first half, Cumberland was able to use two of those threes as part of a 12-4 run to tie the game. The teams traded baskets in the final two minutes before a free throw and jumper from Marquel Hickerson gave the Phoenix a 38-37 lead at halftime.
It was just the fourth time in 17 games that UPIKE had gone into the break without a lead.
Cumberland cooled down from deep in the second half, hitting just 1 of 7 attempts, but was able to stick around with the emergence of Cameron Johnson who scored all 13 of his points in the half.
Even with Johnson rolling, the Phoenix lacked an answer for Brooks and Leach driving to the hoop. When Leach finished a layup with 8:02 to play, UPIKE had a nine-point lead at 70-61.
However, Cumberland (8-10, 1-4 MSc) still had an 11-2 run in it over the next four minutes to tie things up for the 11th time in the game after two straight baskets by Johnson.
Nearing the one-minute mark, Johnson struck again by rebounding his own miss and sticking it back in to get the Phoenix within two with 50 seconds on the clock. The comeback effort fell apart from there though as Cumberland was only able to get off one more shot, a missed three by Ronell Abaekobe.
During that span, Leach had pushed the lead to four with a jumper, then after a Phoenix turnover, Jackson Hussey made a pair of free throws. When Brooks rebounded Abaekobe’s miss and took off towards the basket, he was intentionally fouled, allowing him to push the lead to eight with two more freebies.
Cumberland ended up outrebounding UPIKE 37-35 and hit two more 3-pointers, but the Bears were able to take advantage of 15 Phoenix turnovers, turning them into 16 points. High-percentage shots also helped as UPIKE led the scoring in the paint 56-36.