One thing was for certain Thursday when the University of the Cumberlands visited St. Catharine for Mid-South Conference basketball. And that was that the Patriots were going to win the game. And it looked early that the home Patriots would easily beat the visiting Patriots as St. Catharine streaked to a 12-0 lead to begin the game.
But as the St. Catharine Patriots have found out over the last four years, nothing comes easy when it is a Mid-South Conference opponent. The visiting Cumberlands Patriots battled back, eventually leading by three points, before the homestanding Patriots mustered their own rally for a hard fought 72-70 win.
“This was a game we had to win,” said SC coach J.T. Burton whose team improved to 8-7 overall and 4-3 in the conference. “You have to take care of things at home and hopefully get some on the road to get a top seed in the tournament.”
Cumberlands (10-7, 3-4) cut the advantage to 39-32 at halftime and quickly trimmed that lead to 39-35 when Aaron Watts drilled a trey to open the second half. From that point it was a battle as neither team led by more than four points.
Watts’ fourth 3-pointer of the game came with 1:20 to play and gave Cumberlands a 69-68 lead. But Travis Wilkins gave St. Catharine the lead for good with 50 seconds left on a basket in the paint.
Brandon Johnson then came up with a big steal and converted two free throws for a 72-69 St. Catharine advantage. With four seconds to go Matt Daniel made one of two free throws for Cumberlands for the final margin. Johnson then missed the front end of a bonus but a desperation shot from 50 feet by daniel wasn’t close as the final horn sounded.
Kashiff Carr led five St. Catharine players in double figures with 17 points. Wilkins added 15 and Johnson, Melo Smith and DeShawn Mitchell each had 10.
“This is the first time all season that we have had our complete team available for a game,” said Burton. “That means we have three post players who can rotate which was big for us tonight when we got into some foul trouble.”
Watts led Cumberlands with 24 points and Daniel had 20.
St. Catharine hosts another Mid-South conference clash Saturday when Lindsey Wilson visits for a 4:00 game.