Braves, Lady Braves Trek To Lander For Regular Season Finale
PEMBROKE – The UNCP men's and women's basketball teams will both carry three-game winning streaks into Greenwood, S.C., on Saturday as the Braves and Lady Braves slap the lid on their 2011-12 regular season against Lander in Horne Arena.
UNCP (14-11, 11-6 PBC) enters the matchup on a three-game winning streak with victories over Francis Marion, Armstrong Atlantic and Flagler. The Lady Braves not only posted a 43-point victory over the Saints in the final game at home, but the squad registered a new school record for the largest margin of victory in PBC play, 72-29.
The Black and Gold recorded the second-highest number of wins in conference action since joining the NCAA Division II in 1992 and just behind the 2001-02 season with 12 victories. The game also marked the most wins in conference action under head coach John Haskins as the Lady Braves have guaranteed themselves an overall winning record this season.
The Lady Braves have secured a third place finish in the PBC East Division behind nationally-ranked USC Aiken and Lander, and a fourth place finish overall.
Junior Courtney Bolton leads the team with 12.0 points per game, while senior and PBC All-Academic Team member DeDe Cotten puts out 10.0 points per game. On the defensive side of the ball, freshman Jazmine Kemp collects 6.4 rebounds per game as Bolton and Domonique Washington are second on the team with 5.5 rebounds. The Black and Gold shoot 38.5 percent from the field and 69.3 percent from the charity stripe, which ranks third in the league.
No. 19 Lander (20-5, 15-2) comes into the game with a seven-point victory over Augusta State as Brittni Johnson posted a team-best 23 points, while Ciara Lyons and Kami Philips notched 14 and 13 points, respectively. Despite being out-rebounded, the Lady Bearcats shot 42.6 percent from the field and 70.8 percent from the foul line.
Lander currently is second in the league in points per game (74.6), third in field goal percentage (42.2 percent) and leads the conference in 3-pointers attempted (23.3) and made (7.9). Lyons is fifth in the PBC in points per game with 14.4, while Jasmine Judge is seventh with 12.7 points per game and second with a 3-point shooting percentage of 43.6 percent. Kaylyn Small averages 8.0 rebounds per game which sits her seventh in the league as well as first in the PBC in field goal percentage (61.5 percent).
UNCP and Lander will meet for the 42nd time on Saturday in a series controlled by the Lady Bearcats. Lander will bring a 24-17 series advantage going into the game including a seven-game winning streak. Most recently, the Lady Braves suffered their first conference lost of the season to the Lady Bearcats in a 65-52 loss due to more than 20 turnovers.
With USC Aiken having already wrapped up the top seed from the PBC East on the men's side, both the Braves (17-10, 11-6) and Lander (10-7, 17-8) will be jockeying for seeding position this weekend. The equation is simple for UNCP: win and it is the No. 2 seed; lose and the Black & Gold is destined for either the Nos. 3 or 4 seed in next month's PBC Tournament in Columbus, Ga. Lander would need a win, as well as an Augusta State loss at Lander to grab the No. 2 seed for the event.
The numbers have not been flashy, but the current three-game winning streak for the Braves is the longest for the club since the start of the 2012 portion of the campaign. The Black & Gold is still getting double-digit scoring from four different players, but senior big man Mike Robinson has led the charge over the last three games with 11.7 points per game on 56.5 percent shooting. The Braves have also gotten major contributions from others off the bench as well, including Nathan Priest who has chipped in 9.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in the same time span as well.
Red-hot Lander has captured five of its last six outings, with the only setback coming in the form of a 92-84 loss at USC Aiken a week ago. The Bearcats have lost just once at home this year (February 1 vs. Armstrong Atlantic), and will carry a four-game home winning streak into Saturday's Senior Day in Horne Arena. Lander boasts the PBC's second-best field goal shooting (46.6 pct.) team, as well as the league's third-best scoring team (78.8 points/game). The Bearcats will also pose a threat at the charity stripe where they tote the league's third-best free throw shooting squad (72.6 pct.).
Senior Dwight Tolbert is the league's second-leading leading scorer at 21.8 points per game and is the PBC's deadliest shooter from the perimeter, averaging a league-best 43.2 percent from beyond the arc. The three-time PBC Player of the Week selection has booked 3.3 made 3-pointers per game and has drained more than a trio of 3-pointers on 11 occasions this season, including a season-best seven treys against both Voorhees and Armstrong Atlantic. The Bearcats boast a strong supporting cast as well as David Pruett and Corey Wright average 13.4 and 13.2 points per contest, respectively, while Jeremel Kennedy chips in 11 points an outing.
Lander leads the all-time series, 25-17, but the Braves have captured five of the last six series matchups, including a 79-75 triumph in the league opener for both teams on November 30 in Pembroke. The Braves snapped a 13-game losing streak in Greenwood with a 71-65 win last season in Horne Arena. Eleven of the last 40 contests have been decided by five points or less, including four overtime contests.