Sizzling Second Half Helps Braves Sink Armstrong Atlantic
SAVANNAH, Ga. – Armstrong Atlantic nailed a season-best 15 3-pointers and shot 55 percent from the field, but UNCP used timely rebounding and a lights-out offensive performance in the second half to run past the Pirates, 96-88, on Monday evening in Alumni Arena.
The victory helped UNCP (8-4, 3-0 PBC) move to 3-0 in Peach Belt Conference play for the first time in school history. The Braves have now won six of their last seven outings since a home loss to Wingate in late November. The setback marked the third win in the last five series matchups with Armstrong (4-6, 1-3) as well.
The Braves shot better than 73 percent (14-of-19) in the second half and made good on 21-of-25 attempts from the free throw line. Amid the red-hot shooting effort, the Black & Gold were 5-of-6 from the perimeter as well.
Marcus Heath scored a team-best 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field to pace six players with double-figure scoring nights for the Braves who also had all five of their starters post double-figure nights for the first time this season. Freshman Ben Jacobs registered a season-best 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, K.J. Cooper added 16 points and preseason all-American Shahmel Brackett tallied a baker's dozen. George Blakeney and Griffin Pittman added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Braves as well.
Aric Miller nailed six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 25 points for the Pirates who have now dropped five-straight outings, including three-straight against league foes. Mychal Horn poured in 21 points, Chris Vanlandingham scored 17 and Grant Domsic added 10 for the hosts as well.
A Jacobs 3-pointer less than 10 seconds into the second half sparked the Braves on a 14-4 run that allowed them to take a 56-49 lead with 15:33 to play. UNCP pushed its advantage out to double digits, 67-57, on a pair of free throws by Miguel Starkey four minutes later, and then used a mild 12-6 scoring spurt to pad the advantage out to 14 points, 79-65, on a pair of Blakeney free throws at the 4:46 mark.
The Pirates finally whittled their deficit down to single digits, 89-80, on Miller's trey with 39 seconds to play, but UNCP sank six of their eight free throw attempts down the stretch to stave off any kind of comeback effort.
Armstrong exhibited a 9-for-16 success rate from the perimeter in the opening half, but never pushed the lead out to more than seven points. A teeter-totter affair for the first four minutes, the Braves used a 6-point scoring spurt to take their first of two five-point leads, 15-10, on Heath's jumper with 14:46 before the break, but the Pirates swung the momentum meter back in their direction and grabbed a 21-17 lead just more than two minutes later.
The Braves, again, took a five-point lead, 31-26, on a Jacobs lay-in at the 7:55 mark, but the hosts used a 16-4 run over the next six minutes to grab their largest lead of the half, 42-35, on Miller's trey with two minutes to play. The visitors scored seven of the game's next 10 points, but Armstrong carried a 45-42 advantage into the intermission.
UNCP will return to action on December 30 when it opens up a three-game home stand against Shawnee State in the English E. Jones Center. Tip off has been set for 2 p.m.