LEBANON, Tenn. – Elisha Justice scored 22 points to help the second-ranked University of Pikeville men’s basketball team hold off a Cumberland (Tenn.) team hungry for an upset 64-60 on Thursday night at Dallas Floyd Gymnasium.
The Bears held a first-half lead as large as 10 points and went up by as many as 11 in the second, but the Bulldogs kept fighting back before Josh Whitaker took over late and saved the win for the Bears.
With Pikeville up by just two at 49-47, Whitaker completed a 4-point play after being fouled on a three to give the Bears a six-point lead with 5:15 left. Minutes later he finished off an old-fashioned 3-point play and drew a five-second violation on defense to help finish off the win.
Whitaker ended up with 16 points, while Kenny Manigault joined him and Justice in double figures with 12. John Nunnally, Bruce Reed and Keala King all finished with five rebounds, but Pikeville was edged on the glass overall 38-37.
Marquel Hickerson led all scorers with 29 points, hitting 5-of-10 3-pointers for the Bulldogs, while Lester Gude chipped in with 10. Josh Wilkerson went to the rack for eight points, all coming in the second half.
Sixty-four points is the lowest total for the Bears this season as they shot just 38.6 percent from the field. Pikeville did perform better from long range, hitting 7 threes at 41.2 percent and went 13-of-17 from the free-throw line. Cumberland finished the game shooting 41.4 percent from the field.
Pikeville is 20-2 for the first time since the 2003-04 season and improves to 10-1 in Mid-South Conference play. Cumberland drops to 12-9 overall and 4-8 in league play, losing both regular-season matchups against the Bears.
With the routine inside shots from Chris Cantino, King and Reed not going down, UPIKE had to look elsewhere for points in the first half. That trio went a combined 2-of-16 from the field in the first 20 minutes, luckily Justice was on fire, hitting three 3-pointers to finish with 15 points in the half.
The Bears looked to be on a roll early as two straight Justice threes put them up 18-8, but the Bulldogs countered with a 7-0 run, ending with a Lamar Brinkly jumper to make it a three-point game with 8:44 on the clock.
While Cumberland never led, it did tie it up at 18 before a 5-0 run with the help of a Manigault three put the Bears back up by five. The deficit stayed around five points the rest of the half as Pikeville went into halftime up 31-26 following a King free throw.
The second half saw the Bears build a nine-point lead in the first three minutes as Whitaker’s free throws made it 39-30. An 8-0 Bulldog run changed the momentum however with them eventually grabbing their first and only lead at 42-41.
Over the next six minutes Pikeville outscored Cumberland 17-5, giving it the breathing room to hold off one final run in the final two minutes.
The Bears are back in action at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday at Lindsey Wilson in Columbia, Ky.