By Ronica Shannon
Register staff report
The Mountaineers let a big first-half lead slip away Thursday at home in a crucial conference showdown and suffered a disappointing loss.
Berea College was up by as many as 14 points, but Cincinnati Christian rallied for a 80-73 win at the Seabury Center. Seth Beckham had a team-high 17 points for the Mountaineers, while Aaron Ponder finished with 16 points and Tevin Webster added 12 points and seven rebounds.
The loss drops Berea (15-11, 7-4 Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) into a three-way tie for third place in the conference with Asbury (16-10, 7-4 KIAC) and Cincinnati Christian (13-13, 7-4 KIAC).
The Mountaineers shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and took a 27-13 lead on a three-pointer by Ponder with 9:08 left before halftime. The Eagles battled back behind the play of Kenny Gaynor. The 6-foot-7 freshman forward had 19 points in the first half and finished the game with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Cincinnati Christian was able to get back within five points later in the half and trailed 44-36 at halftime.
The Eagles opened the second half on a 9-4 run and took their first lead of the game with 9:50 left on a basketball by Mike Hill.
After five lead changes, Cincinnati Christian started to pull away as Nick Wake connected on four second-half three-pointers.
Berea shot just 35 percent in the second half, including a one-of-eight performance from three-point range. The Mountaineers also had 11 second-half turnovers and only got to the free-throw line six times in the final 20 minutes.
Koty Riley had seven points and five rebounds for Berea. Rashad Hayden and Dominique Garmon had six points each, Deon Banks had five points and three assists, Trent Maddox had three points and Tyler Huff had one point.
Beckham also had six assists and four rebounds.
Berea is set to return to action Saturday at Point Park.