PEMBROKE – UNCP posted 48 points in the paint, shot better than 50 percent from the field and used a staunch second half defensive effort to upend visiting Anderson with an 84-69 rout of the Trojans on Saturday afternoon at the English E. Jones Center.
Shahmel Brackett scored a team-high 19 points, while also cashing in on four assists and a pair of steals, to pace a quartet of Braves (8-2) in double figures on the day. George Blakeney posted 15 points and finished a rebound shy of grabbing his first double-double of the season, while Chris Hargrove tallied 15 points as well. Nathan Priest scored in double figures for the sixth time this season, turning in a 13-point, eight rebound effort in just 18 minutes from the floor.
Kevis Cornwell scored a game-high 21 points for the Trojans (7-5) who had their two-game winning streak snapped with the setback. Anderson, who has already knocked off Peach Belt Conference foes Clayton State, Georgia College and North Georgia this season, dropped its third game of the season to league squads, but the first by double digits.
The Braves offset 18 turnovers with a +22 rebounding margin – the fourth time this season the Black and Gold has out-rebounded its opponent by 20 or more boards. UNCP has also grabbed more rebounds than its opponents in all 10 games this season as well.
"(Assistant) Coach (Corey) Thompson really does a good job with the team in that aspect of the game," said UNCP head coach Ben Miller. "Our guys have really bought in, but I think he has done a really good job with our guys emphasizing (rebounding) every day on every possession.
"Our defense was definitely better tonight. They are very hard to guard because they can spread you out with the 3-ball, but they also attack the basket off the dribble. That's a big challenge defensively, but I liked how our guys communicated in the second half and played as a team."
Cornwell's free throw with 13:07 left to play provided the game's ninth tie score of the game, but Hargrove's 3-pointer seconds later sparked the hosts on an 8-0 scoring spurt that gave the Braves the lead for good. Anderson, twice, cut its deficit to within a single perimeter shot over the next three minutes, but Hargrove's short jumper at the 2:25 mark capped a 14-3 run that, inevitably, put the nail in the coffin.
In a first half that featured five tie scores and 14 lead changes, Mike Robinson gave UNCP a slight 33-30 lead with a pair of free throws with 5:42 left before intermission, but the Trojans responded with an 11-2 run over the next four-plus minutes to take a 41-35 lead on Brandon Young's trey with 93 seconds left before the halftime buzzer. UNCP scored the game's next five points to get to within one, 41-40, but Cornwell's turnaround jumper with two seconds left gave the Trojans a 43-40 advantage heading into the locker rooms.
UNCP will now take a two-week break from competition for the winter holidays before resuming action on Jan. 2, 2011, when they suit up to host PBC rival Francis Marion (6-2, 0-1 PBC) in a 3:30 p.m. contest at the English E. Jones Center. Admission prices are $6 for adults and $2 for children 18 years of age and younger. UNCP students are admitted free with a valid Braves Card.
"(The 8-2 start to the season) has been fun," Miller said. "I like where we're at and I like the fact that our guys are playing together really well and they enjoy playing together. But, I think that they all know that we can still keep improving and that's the whole key to this time of year. Once we get back in January, (the opponents) will be coming fast and furious at us. So, I like where we're at, but I really like the potential that we have to get better."