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In listening to St. Catharine head coach J.T. Burton, one might suspect that his Patriots are on a winning streak – instead of the two game slide they endured last week. But the losses at Cumberland (Tenn.) and University of the Cumberlands haven’t broken the optimism of the Patriot mentor whose team fell to 7-7 overall and 1-5 in the Mid-South Conference.
“I really believe that we are the best 1-5 team of any conference,” said Burton. “And Travis Wilkins is probably the best player in the nation right now.”
Despite a79-59 loss Thursday at Cumberland, Wilkins supported Burton’s claim by turning in the first triple-double by a St. Catharine player in the five years the Patriots have played in the Mid-South Conference. The senior center had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.
But Wilkins was about the only bright spot Thursday as the Bulldogs (6-6, 2-3) outshot and outrebounded the Patriots. Cumberland built a 48-33 halftime lead and St. Catharine never got closer than 14 points after intermission.
Marquis Lee led the Patriots in scoring with 17 points and Omar Skinner added 11. St. Catharine shot 42 percent from the field while the Bulldogs connected on 43.5 percent from the field. But the home team did its major damage from long range where they hit 12 of 18 from behind the arc for 67 percent. The Patriots were 7-22 from three point range for 32 percent.
Burton’s bright outlook came mainly from the improved play at No. 2 Cumberlands on Saturday where the Patriots dropped a hard fought 81-79 to the home Patriots. St. Catharine fell behind by 15 points early in the contest before cutting the lead to 34-28 at halftime. They outscored Cumberlands by nine points in the second half but never were able to pull even with the conference leaders.
Wilkins again proved to be the best player on the court with 33 points on 13-14 shooting from the field. Kevin Kornegay added 16 points and William Tolefree had 10.
“We just have to work on getting better and go on a winning streak,” said Burton. “These guys love playing together and are fun to coach.”
The Patriots, now mired in last place in the conference, hope to start the winning streak this week with two home games. Thursday they welcome Shawnee State (8-6, 5-2) for an 8 p.m. game and Saturday they host Rio Grande (6-10, 2-5) in a 4 p.m. tip-off.