Cumberland (16-10, 5-8) improved to 3-7 this season against ranked opponents, with five of the seven defeats by six points or less. The Phoenix did their work on the inside, especially in the second half, with Bowers posting 20 points and 10 rebounds, Bre Neal registering 14 points and nine boards and Shantanique Tolbert adding six points and six rebounds off the bench.
Cumberland trailed by 14 late in the first half and 10 at intermission but started the third quarter with a 13-6 stretch. Bowers netted eight points during the run and Terra Pryor nailed a huge 3-pointer from the wing, the only triple of the game for the Phoenix, pulling CU within, 37-34.
Pikeville (21-6, 7-6) answered with eight of the next 10 points, including a 3-pointer by Aundrea Matchen, who finished with a team-high 20 points, and Dinyell Calvert’s layup with 4:46 left in the period gave the Bears a 45-36 advantage.
Cumberland came right back with the next 11 points and ended the period with an 11-1 spurt. Neal posted an old-fashioned 3-point play and another field goal before Tolbert’s layup on the fast break tied the game at 45 and her two foul shots helped CU take a 47-46 edge to end the quarter.
"It wasn't what we were running, it was how we were running it," Cumberland coach Jeremy Lewis said of the Phoenix's first-half struggles. "Our timing got better and we were getting the ball to the spots we wanted to. We felt coming into the game we had an advantage on the interior against them. We felt we were a little bigger and maybe a little more physical. If we could get the ball close to the rim, even if we missed shots, we had a chance for offensive rebounds and cutbacks.
"Our kids responded being down 10 at halftime against a nationally-ranked team."
Neither team led by more than three in the final 10 minutes, with Matchen’s back-to-back field goals giving the Bears a 52-49 lead. Jalita Fason’s tip-in knotted the score at 52 and Tolbert’s putback put Cumberland ahead, 54-52.
Pikeville did not score for more than five minutes, missing four shots and committing three turnovers, until Taylor McGlade’s 3-pointer from the wing gave the visitors the lead again, 55-54, with 2:33 remaining.
Chelsey Hall, who hit just one field goal in the game but was 6-for-6 at the foul line, hit two at the charity stripe with 1:47 to play for a one-point lead and Fason’s drive to the hoop with 1:15 to play pushed the lead to three.
Kandice Porter answered for the Bears with a putback underneath after a Bowers block. Bowers was fouled on the other end on an offensive rebound, making both free throws with 28.7 seconds remaining.
Prisha Rogers netted two foul shots for the Bears with 22.2 seconds to play and Pikeville fouled Bowers before any time ran off the clock. The junior hit 1 of 2 to increase the edge to 61-59.
Devin Conley and Porter both missed point-blank shots for the Bears, who retained possession on a held ball with 11.2 seconds to play. Bowers was whistled for a foul on an inbounds with 8.6 seconds left, but Pikeville was not yet in the bonus and had to take the ball out of bounds again.
Porter fumbled a low inbounds pass with seven seconds remaining, giving Cumberland the ball. Again Pikeville fouled Bowers before the inbounds and she hit 1 of 2. Conley drove to the basket but did not shoot before the final buzzer, preserving the win for the Phoenix.
Matchen posted a double-double for the Bears, grabbing 11 rebounds, while Conley netting 14 points, 11 of those in the first half, and Porter finished with 10. Pikeville committed 18 turnovers, which Cumberland turned into 19 points.
Neal netted the first four points for Cumberland and Pryor added a layup plus the foul for a 7-4 edge, but Pikeville scored six straight points, four by Matchen. Conley’s layup with 1:15 left in the quarter gave the Bears a 14-9 advantage, but Neal added another field goal to cut the deficit to three at the end of the period.
Cumberland shot just 4-of-15 in the first 10 minutes but Pikeville committed seven turnovers.
Two free throws by Julia Fox pulled CU within 14-13 in the first minute of the second quarter before the Bears put together a 13-2 spurt over the next 3 1/2 minutes. Conley made a layup and then a 3-pointer before a turnaround baseline jumper by Porter.
Conley added another field goal and Matchen’s short jumper on the fast break pushed the lead to 27-15, forcing the second timeout of the half by Lewis.
Bowers’ turnaround in the lane ended the stretch and Hall’s first basket of the game with 1:40 left in the half made it a 12-point game again. One free throw each by Bowers and Neal made it 31-21 Pikeville at intermission. The Bears did not score over the final 2:47 of the period, but CU netted just four points during that stretch.
"Another win for us over a ranked team, and we need every one we can get at this point in the year," Lewis said. "We were 33 in the last poll. If we can come out here and play well Saturday and be fortunate enough to come out with a win, I think we put ourselves in a position to get an at-large bid to the national tournament. It could depend on how some conference tournaments shake out.
"I think we're a national tournament team. We've beaten ranked teams. We've played one of the toughest schedules in the country. We're in the toughest league in the country and it's a war every single night… We're right where we were last year. I'd rather be on (the bubble) than off of it."
Cumberland will end the regular season Saturday with Senior Day at 2 p.m., hosting the University of the Cumberlands.
Second-half run sends Pikeville men past CU
K.K. Simmons scored nine of his 18 points during a 19-6 run to start the second half and seventh-ranked Pikeville held off Cumberland, 73-69, in men’s basketball action here Thursday night at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.
The Phoenix (11-17, 4-11 Mid-South) led 47-38 at the half behind three 3-pointers and 15 total points by Mark Brown. Cumberland used an 11-2 spurt late in the period to take the lead, with Brown netting seven points during the stretch.
Simmons hit consecutive 3-pointers to start the second half and his triple with 12:29 remaining tied the game at 53. Trey Rakes and Colt Chapman added field goals for Pikeville (24-4, 11-4), giving the visitors a 57-53 advantage.
Cameron Johnson made a jumper and Delaryn Dodd posted two free throws to tie the game again at 57, but the Bears scored 10 of the next 12 points for their largest lead of the contest.
Christian Leach’s bucket plus the foul started the run and he added a short jumper before a basket and then a 3-pointer by Simmons pushed the lead to 67-59 with 6:56 remaining.
Pikeville scored just two points over the next four minutes, opening the door for Cumberland. Marquel Hickerson posted a layup and Dodd’s field goal cut the deficit to four with just under four minutes left.
Will Shelton’s basket made it a three-point game with 3:10 to play, but Chapman’s putback gave Pikeville a five-point edge again. Jamonte Graham hit 1-of-2 free throws and Brown’s run-out layup off a full-court pass from Graham made it a two-point game with 1:15 remaining.
Cumberland got a turnover on the other end, but Graham threw an outlet pass away and Trey Rakes made two foul shots with 20.7 seconds remaining for the final points of the contest.
Brown finished with 19 points to lead four players in double figures for CU. Hickerson posted 12 points and eight rebounds, Shelton netted 12 points and Graham contributed 10 points and four assists.
Leach registered 18 points for the second straight outing against the Phoenix, while Macari Brooks posted 14 points and Chapman finished with 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
The first half was up-and-down the floor and featured seven ties in the first 15 minutes. Dodd’s dunk finished a 13-6 run early in the period by Cumberland and included two field goals by Shelton and a 3-pointer from Hickerson for an 18-12 lead.
Two Michael Lewis layups were part of eight straight points for Pikeville to take a 20-18 edge and the teams went back-and-forth for the next six minutes, with two free throws by Brooks knotting the contest at 34.
Brown’s 3-pointer from the wing started the 11-2 spurt, with Shelton and Hickerson adding field goals before two foul shots by Brown and then a layup with 1:59 left in the half.
Leach’s jumper ended the run, but Shelton added two foul shots with 12 seconds remaining in the period for a 47-38 advantage.
Cumberland will end the regular season Saturday with a 4 p.m. contest at home against the University of the Cumberlands.