DJ Jones and Jonathan Brown poured in 28 points each in leading the University of the Cumberlands men’s basketball team to an 80-77 exhibition win at Tusculum University before a capacity crowd at Pioneer Arena.
Monday’s game was Tusculum’s annual Education Day as the Pioneers invited area elementary schools to be their guests as 2,000 students, faculty and staff filled the facility.
Jones went 8-of-9 from the free throw line, all in the second half, and connected on a pair of go-ahead free throws with 36 seconds remaining to propel the Patriots to the victory.
Tusculum senior Kobe Funderburk posted 20 points off the bench as he went 6-of-9 from three-point territory, while Connor Jordan tallied 16 points and a team-high five assists with zero turnovers in his 31 minutes of action.
The Pioneers finished the game connecting on 14 three-pointers and out-rebounded the Patriots by a 41-32 margin including 15-5 on the offensive boards. UC shot 14-of-20 from the charity stripe while Tusculum went 5-of-12 from the foul line.
Cumberlands went 28-of-57 from the field for 49.1 percent including 10-of-24 from beyond the arc for 42 percent. Tusculum tallied 44 percent from the floor and 38 percent from the three-point line.
Tusculum redshirt freshman Bryce Jackson led Tusculum with nine rebounds to go along with his six points, both coming on triples. Jacob Hobbs added eight boards and five points, while Akeem Odusipe finished with four points and five rebounds.
Cumberlands’ J.J. Ramey added 11 points off the bench for the visitors.
The Patriots raced out to an 8-0 lead as Tusculum missed its first six field goal tries, but the drought ended on Hobbs’ high-percentage dunk at the 16:35 mark of the half. It sparked an 18-9 run by the Pioneers as TJ Printup’s layup gave TU its first lead of the game at 18-17 with 9:29 left in the half.
Tusculum extended the lead to five points on two occasions and six points in the final minutes of the period including 39-33 following a Jackson three-pointer. But the Patriots closed out the half with five straight points including a Brown three-pointer at the buzzer to trim the deficit to 39-38 at the intermission.
The Pioneers led by as many as seven to start the second half but the Patriots responded with a 9-4 spurt and Brown made three free throws to tie the game at 59-59 with 12:22 left in the game.
The lead swung back and forth until Funderburk connected on back-to-back three-pointers in a span of 12 seconds as Tusculum led 69-68.
Jones went on a 6-0 run all by himself as Cumberlands took its largest lead of the game at 74-69 with 5:54 to go. TU answered with a 6-0 spurt of its own thanks to triples by Jackson and Funderburk as the Pioneers regained the lead at 75-74 with 4:39 on the clock.
Both teams would go scoreless for nearly two minutes until Brown connected on a layup with 2:42 on the scoreboard and a 76-75 UC lead.
Funderburk followed with his 14-foot, off-balanced shot in the paint with 2:24 remaining for a 77-76 TU lead.
Brown tied the game at 77-77 with 1:15 left. After a missed shot by the Pioneers. Jones was fouled and he made his two free throws to give the lead to the Patriots.
After a Tusculum timeout, the Pioneers worked the ball around, but could not get off a quality shot as UC came down with the rebound. Ramey was fouled with 2.2 seconds left. He missed the first shot but made the second for an 80-77 lead. Tusculum’s in-bounds heave to midcourt was intercepted to seal the win for the visitors.
Tusculum will open its regular season this Friday night when they host Lander University in an NCAA II Southeast Region battle. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Pioneer Arena.