Bryan Falls In Hoops Opener at University of Cumberlands

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Bryan's AJ Jones
Bryan's AJ Jones
– Bryan men’s basketball paid a visit to Mid-South Conference opponent University of the Cumberlands on Monday night for their season-opener and came up just shy in a 77-70 decision that went the Patriots’ way.  The early test for the Lions was no small challenge, considering the Patriots are coming off a 2018-19 campaign that included four upsets over NAIA top-25 programs and an appearance in the NAIA National Tournament. Cumberlands orchestrated a strong finish to the first half and fended off a late attack by Bryan in the final frame to secure the season-opening win. 

Leading the Lions was the duo of senior guard/forward Austin Douglas and sophomore center Brandon Thomas.
Both Douglas and Thomas registered double-doubles, highlighted by Douglas’ team-high 20 points and 12 rebounds. Douglas finished 8-of-12 shooting with a lone trey and 3-of-5 at the foul line. Thomas went 6-of-13 in the field and a perfect 4-of-4 at the charity stripe for 16 points while corralling 11 total boards. The only other Lion in double-digits was sharpshooter Noah Mulaski who sank 4-of-5 looks and capitalized on both attempts from deep for 10 points. Others to add to the scoring total were Keaton Dotson with seven points, Isaiah McClain with five, Michael Cody with four, Michael Johnson with three, both Justin Warner and AJ Jones with two points apiece, and lastly Trey Spencer with one.

Bryan was awarded only four assists, compared to the 11 dished out by Cumberlands. McClain tallied a team-best two assists and also matched Mulaski with a team-leading two steals. Bryan’s two blocks were recorded by Warner and McClain with one apiece. 

The Lions shot just 31 percent in the opening period and came up empty in their three tries behind the arc, but the team came surging back in the second frame with a 60 percent field goal percentage in the half and making 5-of-11 from outside. The late improvement resulted in Bryan outshooting Cumberlands 45.8 percent to their 44.4 percent on the night. The work on the glass also saw the Lions narrowly outrebound the Patriots 37-34, which are encouraging marks for Bryan against such a tough opponent.

Thomas and Warner delivered buckets down low through the first three minutes of play, building a 6-0 lead for the Lions when the first half got underway. The Patriots charged back with the next four points, but McClain got on the board to make it an 8-4 lead for Bryan. The advantage was controlled by Bryan until the nine and a half minute mark when Cumberlands evened the count 13-13 before nabbing their first edge of the bout thanks to a game-changing 13-0 run over the next four minutes. The 26-13 difference proved too much for Bryan to overcome before the break despite the Lions clawing the deficit to single digits at 28-19 and 32-23. The Patriots went to the foul line with four seconds on the clock and made the back side free throw to claim a 10-point lead at the end of the first half, 33-23.

Through the midway point of the second half, Cumberlands maintained a comfortable distance from Bryan, pushing ahead for their largest lead of the game at 11:47, 53-38. The momentum finally began going Bryan’s direction in the 9th-minute when Thomas answered back following Cumberlands’ three consecutive points off made foul shots. Douglas grabbed a defensive board and went coast-to-coast with a successful drive and layup, slimming the gap to eight points at 58-50. From that point on, the only time the deficit reached double-digits was in the 3rd-minute at 69-58 and 71-61. Bryan came within four, 62-58, but Cumberlands answered back with seven consecutive points. One last effort by the Lions led to a five-point margin at 71-66 with 47 seconds left to play, but the clock then became Bryan’s enemy. With only seconds remaining and missed opportunities down the final stretch, especially at the foul line, the Lions came up short to the Patriots 77-70.

Bryan men’s basketball returns home this Thursday, Oct. 24 for their home-opener in Summers Gymnasium versus USCAA foe Oakwood University (Ala.). The Lions will be on the search for their first win of the season when they tip-off against the Ambassadors at 8pm.

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