Braves Upend Pacers In PBC Tourney Quarterfinals, 68-66
AIKEN, S.C. – The UNCP men's basketball squad battled through eight tie scores, six lead changes and avoided a desperation heave at the end of the game to take a 68-66 victory over the USC Aiken Pacers in the quarterfinal round of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament at the Convocation Center in Aiken, S.C., on Tuesday evening.
The Braves (17-10) advance to face Georgia Southwestern on Saturday in the tournament semifinals. The Hurricanes advanced to the semifinal round after defeating Clayton State, 87-68, on Tuesday evening.
With the win, the Braves set a new mark for wins in a season by a UNCP squad since joining the NCAA Division II ranks during the 1992-93 campaign.
UNCP got 19 bench points and 12 points off turnovers in the first half as well as 50.0 percent shooting from the floor to take a 36-33 lead into the break.
The two teams battled back-and-forth during the first ten minutes of the second half, and the score was pushed to 52-52 with 8:24 remaining in the game. Through the next six minutes, the Braves would push forward with a 66-61 lead, but a layup by the Pacer's Alvin Brown would trim the Braves' lead to 66-63 with 2:16 to go.
The teams would go scoreless until a made free throw by Shahmel Brackett moved the Braves' lead to 67-63 with 1:10 remaining, but Brown would answer again with 42 seconds to go with a thunderous dunk on a missed shot to trim UNCP's lead to two points.
A UNCP turnover would give the ball back to the Pacers and a pick-and-roll on the ensuing possession left USC Aiken forward Kevin Willis an open lane to the basket but sophomore George Blakeney fouled him, putting Willis at the line and ending any hopes of an easy lay-in.
Willis would make one of two free throws and a quick foul by the Pacers would put Brackett at the line with his team up 67-66 with 1.2 seconds remaining in the game. Brackett would miss the first and make the second to push UNCP's lead to 68-66.
A full-court pass by the Pacers found Brown down around the hoop, but his desperation shot sailed high as time expired, giving the Braves their first PBC Tournament victory since 2006.
Brackett led the squad with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the floor including 5-of-10 from the free throw line. He added four rebounds, five assists and four steals in 32 minutes of action.
Junior Cody Hughes followed with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting while adding three rebounds and one block while Blakeney added a team-high eight rebounds while registering nine points on offense.
The Braves and Hurricanes will meet in the latter of the two semifinal matchups on Saturday at 8 p.m. while PBC regular-season champion Augusta State will take on Montevallo in the earlier matchup that begins at 6 p.m. Both games will be played at the Convocation Center in Aiken, S.C.