Second Half Adjustments Lift Braves Past Cougars, 71-69
COLUMBUS, Ga. – Led by five players in double-figures, the UNCP men's basketball team survived without their "A" game Saturday and gritted out a tough 71-69 Peach Belt Conference road victory over Columbus State at the Lumpkin Center in Columbus, Ga.
The Braves (11-3, 4-2 PBC) and Cougars (5-7, 1-2 PBC) combined for 37 turnovers, 46 fouls and two technical fouls during the matchup, with both teams shooting less than 45.0 percent from the floor and less than 65.0 percent from the free throw line.
With the win, UNCP secured their best 14-game start since joining the NCAA Division II ranks, eclipsing the 10-4 mark by the 1999-00 squad. The 4-2 start to the conference season is the best since the 1994-95 season and UNCP is now 3-0 in PBC road games this year.
UNCP was out-rebounded for the first time all season after finishing with an even or positive rebounding margin in the first 13 games of the year. UNCP entered the matchup with the second-best rebounding margin in the nation (+13.6).
The first half featured 25 turnovers and 18 fouls, and UNCP could only muster a 2-of-7 effort from the free throw line while the host Cougars finished 15-of-19, providing the fuel for them to enter halftime with a 37-32 lead.
The second half alone featured seven lead changes and three ties, and the Braves stepped up their free throw shooting efforts in going 18-of-27 during the second stanza while only committing five turnovers to quickly erase the Cougars' lead. The two teams battled to a 60-60 tie with 4:17 remaining in the game, however the lead would change hands four times during the next 2:35 of the ballgame with UNCP holding the advantage at 68-67.
UNCP would push their lead to 71-69 with six seconds remaining on senior Chris Hargrove's 10th and the Cougar's last hope for a tie or win would be erased when Braves' junior Cody Hughes stole the inbounds pass to secure the win for his teammates.
The Braves were led by a game-high 16-point effort by sophomore Shahmel Brackett, who added four rebounds, four steals and two assists during 35 minutes of action. The defending PBC Freshman of the Year finished 5-of-15 from the floor, including 2-of-6 from long range and 4-of-5 from the line.
Hargrove added 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field and added a team-high eight rebounds and five steals in 31 minutes. Sophomore George Blakeney finished just 5-of-13 from the charity stripe, but was an efficient 4-of-6 from the floor in contributing 13 points.K.J. Cooper and Cody Hughes finished with 12 and 10 points apiece, respectively.
The Braves will look to keep the momentum going tomorrow afternoon when they battle the Hurricanes of Georgia Southwestern. Tip-off will be following the conclusion of the women's matchup that starts at 1:30 p.m.