PIKEVILLE – With the help of a nine-point lead at halftime, the University of Pikeville women’s basketball team was able to hold off a furious rally from No. 20 Cumberland (Tenn.) for a 79-67 win on Saturday at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
It took less than five minutes for the Bulldogs to tie the game in the second half, but UPIKE rallied to go up by as many as 12 points to secure the first win of the season against a ranked opponent.
Callisha Johnson led the Bears (7-9, 2-3 MSC) with 18 points, followed by Kandice Porter with 16 and Brogan Conley adding 13. Brittany Swindall pulled down a team-high six rebounds, while Kayla Day had her best performance of the season with nine points and five boards.
Casie Cowan paced the Bulldogs (7-7, 3-3 MSC) with 19 points and TaCouya Allen finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Both teams shot right at 43 percent from the field and Cumberland hit three more 3-pointers, but UPIKE was hard to beat hitting an astounding 18-of-19 shots from the free-throw line and controlling the backboards 40-30.
Courtney Haney energized the Bears early, gathering her own offensive rebound on the first shot of the game to take the early lead. Tasia Blue and Cowan hit threes for the Bulldogs to take a 10-9 lead, but Swindall finished another offensive board to put the Bears up by three with 12 minutes left in the half.
Layce Colter connected on a three for Cumberland to tie the score at 13, but it wouldn’t score again for four minutes as UPIKE went on an 8-0 run, finished by a Porter layup to lead 21-13.
The Bears were playing their best defense of the season and doing so without failing. Midway through the first half, the Bulldogs had a 6-0 advantage in fouls as UPIKE went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.
The best sequence of the half for UPIKE came with less than three minutes to go. Day knocked down a three from the corner, Porter finished a lob and made a free throw and Conley added another three to go up 38-26.
Cumberland added one more three to make it a 38-29 Pikeville lead at halftime. The Bears were shooting 42.9 percent from the field compared to 37 percent for the Bulldogs and had a 23-15 advantage on the glass while making all five of their free throws.
The 12-point halftime lead was slashed to one as the Bulldogs went on a 14-5 run to start the second half. Conley opened the half with a three and Johnson hit a pair of free throws, but the next 11 points went to Cumberland to tie it at 43.
For the first time since leading 10-9, the Bulldogs regained the lead with a free throw at 46-45 with 13 minutes to play. The Bears got back in control five minutes later as Johnson dished to Cheyenne Madden for a layup to make it a 58-53 lead. The Bulldogs answered quickly with a three, but Kelah Eldridge fought right back with a triple of her own.
The Bulldogs trimmed the deficit to three on two occasions, but big baskets from Madden and Porter in the paint kept it a two-possession game. UPIKE went up by seven with two minutes left on a nifty layup from Patrice Tonge.
Up eight with 53 seconds to go, the game turned into a free-throw contest for the Bears. Johnson passed the first test with a pair of makes to build a 10-point lead. Cowan hit a three on the next possession, but UPIKE wouldn’t miss from the line to preserve the win.
The Bears will return to the court at 6 p.m. on Thursday at No. 8 Georgetown (Ky.).