Despite being undersized and outmanned, the fifth-seeded Cougars stood toe-to-toe with fourth-seeded Motlow State but fell in the end, 78-68.
The Cougars got off to the quick start they wanted, opening the contest with a 14-7 run. The Bucks caught fire over the next several minutes and erased the lead to gain their first advantage at 19-18.
The Bucks kept right on rolling, hitting the Cougars with a 14-1 run to open up their largest lead of the night, 39-23, at the four-minute mark. Tre’von James hit a pair of shots in the paint while Dequon Miller and Reggie Williams each canned long 3-pointers during the outburst to help the Bucks to a 39-25 halftime lead.
The Cougars slowly whittled away at the Bucks’ lead over the first nine minutes of the second half. Robert Brandon let fly from 3-point land while Keevin Tyus went to work in the paint with 11 big points, including a three-point play, a steal and a coast-to-coast layup to help the Cougars slice the lead to only three points, 49-46 at the 10-minute mark.
A nice driving baseline layup from Travis Wildgoose got the Cougars to within a point and a short jumper from Tyus did the same on the next trip. The Cougars had three trips down the floor to either tie the game or take the lead, but each time the Bucks were equal to the task and stayed out front.
The Bucks regained control down the stretch,hitting 13-of-16 free tosses to secure the win and advance into the semifinal round of the tournament on Friday against the winner of the Southwest and Roane State game.
“I was really proud of the way that we fought back and gave ourselves a chance to win,” stated Cougars coach Lee Cigliano. “After being down at halftime, the guys didn’t quit, and came back, and I think we had a couple of chances to take the lead, but it just didn’t go our way. We battled with a very good team despite being a little shorthanded against their depth.
“This game kind of resembled our season, we fought back from adversity all year long, and we did tonight as well. At the end of the day, it was a loss, but we can hold our heads up and considering everything that happened along the way, it was a successful season.”
Keevin Tyus led the way for the Cougars (13-12) with 26 points, 12 rebounds and three steal. Brandon finished with 12 points and Wildgoose had 11. Miller paced the Bucks with 25 points while James added 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Tyus was named to the first team All-Conference team for the Cougars along with Chattanooga State’s Nick Scott and DaiJon Williams who were named to the second team All-Conference team. Former Cougar and current Walters State player Trey Suttles was also named to the first team All-Conference team.
In the first game of the day, Chattanooga State lost to top-seeded Columbia State, 89-76.