The St. Catharine College men’s basketball team, struggling through the first half of the season, has not been nationally ranked this year. But again Thursday they made an impact on the rankings by knocking off a team that is in the top 25.
That victory came against the University of the Cumberlands who came to Lourdes Hall ranked 22nd but left with a decisive 85-68 loss to J. T. Burton’s team. The St. Catharine win came on the heels of last Saturday’s victory at Shawnee State where they beat the Bears who were ranked 24th at the time.
“We played really well,” said Burton whose team improved to 9-10 overall and 5-8 in Mid-South Conference play. “When we share the basketball like we did and play good defense we will be in every game.”
The Patriots shared the ball better than they have all season as shown by the 22 assists they recorded. Just as the scoring was balanced with four players in double figures, so were the assists as nine different players entered that stat column, led by Omar Skinner who handed out six assists. Skinner also led the way in scoring with 22 points. Arthur McMillan added 17 while Dominique Roy and William Tolefree had 14 and 13 points respectively.
“We held them to 42 percent shooting which still isn’t bad but that is the first time in the last four games (three of them wins) that we have allowed the opponent better than 35 percent,” added Burton.
The unselfishness on offense and sticky defense allowed the Patriots to take a lead three minutes into the game that they would never relinquish. The lead stood at 44-29 at halftime and increased to as many as 22 points in the second half. Cumberlands (17-6, 8-5) never got closer than ten points after intermission.
Travis Wilkins led the Patriots on the boards with seven rebounds as St. Catharine held a 35-28 rebounding advantage. They forced the visitors into 21 turnovers while committing 12 miscues themselves.
It was the third consecutive victory for St. Catharine as the Patriots now are in eighth place in the conference, one-half game behind UVA-Wise who visits next Thursday. Cumberlands is now tied for fourth place with Georgetown.
Next up for the Patriots is Saturday’s home game (4:00) against Cumberland University (Tenn.) who is one game behind St. Catharine in the standings. In the earlier meeting between the two teams the Patriots dropped a 79-59 decision in Lebanon, Tennessee.