The Shawnee State Bears could not overcome a 15-point deficit despite a strong second half effort as the Cumberland Bulldogs gave the Bears their first loss at home since January 6, 2011, snapping their 20-home win streak.
The Bulldogs (6-0, 1-0) were able to withstand a second half comeback using a complete team effort to defeat the Bears (6-1,1-1), 63-58, despite 29 total free throws and 22 points and 20 rebounds from Alex Pohl.
Cumberland controlled the first half with a pair of 7-0 runs to begin the game to extend their lead to 20-10 with 10:06 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs were paced by eight points from TaCouya Allen and Casie Cowan as every Cumberland player scored in the first 20 minutes of action.
Struggling from the field shooting 13 percent in the half, the Bears turned to the free throw line for help. Shawnee State made 14-of-16 free throws in the half which accounted for 70 percent of their total offense in the first 20 minutes of play.
“They are really good defensively and we didn’t get into our offense they way we wanted,” Shawnee State coach Robin Hagen-Smith said.
Schera Sampson made a free throw with 7:12 left in the first half to cut the Bulldogs lead to 24-15, which was the closest Shawnee State was since the 13:08 mark.
“Our free throws was a big difference in the game for us,” Hagen-Smith said.
However, Cumberland continued to attack the Bears as Cowan and Allen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push their lead to 17 with 2:51 remaining in the first half to give them their largest lead of the game to that point.
The Bears starting forward Alex Pohl, who made went a perfect 6-of-6 in the half, made both from the line at the 1:24 mark cutting the lead to 20-35 entering halftime.
Trailing by 15 the Bears had the look of an entire different team to start the second half. Forcing four turnovers in the first 10 possessions, Shawnee State took advantage.
A 19-6 Bear run got them within 41-37 with 13:22 left in the game, which was the closest Shawnee State has been since the 14:43 mark in the first half.
“We calmed down and were patient in the second half,” Hagen-Smith said. “Momentum shifted our way and we got a little bit of confidence.”
The run was highlighted by six points from Pohl and Sampson, but freshman Kara Long hit back-to-back shots to pull the Bears within four, forcing the Bulldogs to call a timeout with 13:17 left in the game.
“I thought that was her best game this year and started to play with more urgency today,” Hagen-Smith said.
Cowan however continued to hurt Shawnee State from beyond the arc, hitting two 3-pointers after the timeout to push Cumberland lead back to eight with 11:28 left.
However, Pohl forced a steal on the next possessions which turned into a 3-pointer from Alannah Sheets. The basket jump-started an 8-0 run by the Bears to cut the lead to 52-50 with 4:44 left in the game.
The two teams battled and exchanged baskets for the remainder of the game and for the Bears the biggest basket by Pohl came with 58 seconds left, Pohl made a tough layup in the paint to cut the Bulldogs lead to 59-58.
“Pohl was phenomenal, she played like it was her last game of her life,” Hagen-Smith said. “She went after it and she is tough and plays so hard.”
After two free throws made by the Bulldogs, Shawnee State had one last chance as Sheets missed a 3-point attempt.
“We had some great looks in the end but couldn’t but the ball in the hole,” Hagen-Smith said.
The victory for the Bulldogs snapped a 20-home game win streak for the Bears. Shawnee State’s last home defeat was on Jan. 6 against Walsh University in 2011.
The Bears will be back home to play Rio Grande on Tuesday in a MSC showdown, tip is set for 6 p.m.
“The fight in us was the most impressive thing our kids refused to give up and we fought it and found a way to get back into the game,” Hagen-Smith said.
Cumberland 35 28 63
Shawnee State 20 38 58
Cumberland— Campbell 2-2-6, Allen 2-2-8, Tye 2-6-11, Elie 4-0-8, Pace 3-2-8, Cowan 5-0-14, Harper 0-1-1, Ryan 2-1-8, Davis 1-0-2
3-point— Allen (2), Tye (1), Cowan (3)
Shawnee State— Feuchter 0-1-1, Sampson 4-9-17, Long 3-0-6, Sheets 3-4-11, Pohl 4-14-22, Nagle 0-1-1
3-point— Sheets (1)