Pacers Hold Off Visiting UNCP
AIKEN, S.C. – USC Aiken scored 24 points off of 20 UNCP turnovers and connected on 50 percent of its shots in the second half to key an 86-71 victory over the visiting Braves Wednesday evening at the Convocation Center in Aiken, S.C.
Brandon Thomas registered his 11th career double-double with a game-best 17 points and a dozen rebounds to pace a quartet of Braves (8-16, 4-11 PBC) with double-figure scoring nights. Nate Priest (16 points) and Taylor Hukill (15) both turned in career-best scoring totals, while Chris Hargrove posted 11. Hukill also booked a game-best four blocks as well.
Four starters scored in double figures for the Pacers (15-8, 10-6) including Mark Brown who scored a team-best 16 points – 14 of which came in the second half. Sterling Council came off the bench to score 14 points, while Byron Faison added 14 as well. Re'mon Nelson and Casey McMasters each turned in 13 points.
A layup and an ensuing bonus free throw by Priest would register the third tie score of the contest, but USC Aiken answered with a 9-2 run en route to building a 10-point lead, 50-40, just more than four minutes later. A lay-in by Rashad Flowers at the 11:02 mark would push the advantage out to 60-46, but the Braves would chop into a double-digit deficit for the second time of the night and got to within seven, 68-61, on Hargove's lay-up with 5:36 remaining.
UNCP would make its shots down the stretch to stay in the hunt but Aiken, who was 9-for-16 from the charity stripe through the first 37 minutes of the contest, hit 11-of-12 from the free throw line over the final three minutes to seal the outcome.
The Pacers built their early first half lead out to as much as 13 on a 3-pointer by McMasters just less than eight minutes into the game, but the Braves whittled away at their deficit and eventually tied the game at 31 apiece following four-straight points by Thomas. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Council with 52 seconds left would give the hosts a 34-31 edge heading into intermission.
UNCP will return to action again on Monday when the Braves return home to battle North Georgia (13-10, 8-5) at 7 p.m. inside the English E. Jones Center. Admission prices are $5 for adults and $2 for children 18 years of age and younger. UNCP students are admitted free with a valid Braves Card.