Bryan basketball improves to 17-9 overall
ATHENS, Tenn. – Dominating performances by Oteriah Lee and Brice Cusick helped the Bryan College men’s basketball team pull off their fifth straight win as they downed host Tennessee Wesleyan University Monday night 70-62. The Lions were coming off a riveting upset of No. 25 Montreat College (N.C.) and used that energy to gain a lead just before half against the Bulldogs that wouldn’t be surrendered in the final period as they improved their overall record to 17-9 and Appalachian Athletic Conference mark to 11-6, while Tennessee Wesleyan fell to 9-16 overall and 6-11 in AAC play.
Lee led the way in the scoring department with 24 points and also led the team in assists with five. Along with Cusick’s 19 points, both he and Lee matched each other with a team-high seven rebounds, respectively. Despite Cusick’s presence down low, he dealt a lot of damage behind the arc, shooting 5-of-11 from deep. EJ Bush chipped in a notable eight points and six rebounds, while Terrance Scales and Isaiah McClain totaled six points apiece. Tyler Yoder aided with four points, Justin Warner posted two points, and Clay Hertel dropped in one free throw in the contest. As a team, Bryan shot 42.6 percent, 31.8 percent from outside, and took advantage on their trips to the foul line by making 17-of-25. Tennessee Wesleyan shot 37.3 from the floor, 14.3 on the perimeter, and had just 9-of-12 on free throws. The rebounding was the one area of play that the Bulldogs got the edge in as they narrowly outrebounded the Lions 40-33.
Each side took turns trying to take over the lead as the first half saw four tie points and four lead changes with the largest lead going to Tennessee Wesleyan at five points and Bryan at three points. Cusick started the game off with a deep three-pointer, but the Bulldogs evened the score at 3-3 and continued their run as they went out in front 7-3. A free throw and layup by Lee and a trey sailed in by McClain allowed Bryan to regain a 9-7 lead. Once again, Tennessee Wesleyan tied the game 9-9. Over the next eight minutes the Lions clawed their way to a lead, surrendered it to back to the Bulldogs, and then tied it 18-18. The home team managed to create a five-point separation at 23-18, but it wouldn’t last long as Bryan outscored Tennessee Wesleyan 9-2 to close out the first half on top 27-25.
In the first three minutes of the second half, the Lions made sure to get the ball in the hot hands of Cusick who rained down a trio of three-pointers, pushing Bryan ahead 38-31. The Bulldogs were able to constantly answer, but the Lions kept it full steam ahead, eventually breaking into a double-digit difference at 48-37. Even though Tennessee Wesleyan was able to slim the margin back down briefly, Bryan bounced back at 56-46 for the 10-point lead with 5:18 on the clock. The closest the Bulldogs came was when they shortly caught a break as they got off their chains and made it a two-point ballgame at 62-60 with just under two minutes left. On the next play, in need of a bucket to keep Tennessee Wesleyan at a distance, Cusick scored the mid-range shot. Then it was Scales who provided a huge takeaway when he stole the ball with one minute remaining. The Bulldogs fouled him, but Scales sank the clutch pair of foul shots, making the score 66-60. The Lions completely locked down Tennessee Wesleyan, allowing them just two free throws in the final seconds before Bryan added a couple more free throws and captured the 70-62 win.
Bryan ends their stint of road games and returns home Wednesday, Feb. 7 as they host conference foe Milligan College (Tenn.) in their next to last home game of the year. The Lions and Buffaloes are set to tipoff at 7:30pm.