FLORENCE, S.C. – Visiting UNCP held Francis Marion to just 35 percent shooting from the field, including a paltry 31.1 percent success rate in the second half, but the 17th-ranked Patriots forced 34 turnovers and used a pair of big second half runs to hold off the Lady Braves, 77-65, Saturday afternoon at FMU’s Smith University Center.
JaToya Kemp registered game-bests with 21 points and nine rebounds for UNCP (6-6, 0-3 PBC), while Chevoya Jackson booked 14 points for the Lady Braves as well. Nicole Mealing came off the bench to score 20 points for Francis Marion (10-1, 2-0 PBC) who managed its fifth-straight series victory with the outcome. Shana Franks added 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting for the Patriots as well, while Eboni Fields scored 15 despite being held to just 5-of-18 shooting.
The setback halted the winning skein for UNCP at a pair of games, while the Patriots picked up their second-straight victory after dropping the only game of the campaign at Wingate two weeks ago. Francis Marion now leads the all-time series with the Black and Gold by a 33-17 count.
Kemp’s lay-in with just more than five minutes gone from the second half game clock whittled UNCP’s 10-point deficit down to just five, but the Patriots scored the next 11 points to take a seemingly insurmountable 58-42 advantage on Fields’ trey at the 10:12 mark. The Lady Braves trimmed their deficit back to 11 points nearly three minutes later, but the Patriots responded with a 16-4 run over the next four minutes to grab a 75-52 lead and put the game out of reach.
UNCP shot nearly 46 percent in the first half and led by as much as six points midway eight minutes into the opening period, but the Patriots tied the game with a short jumper by Mealing with 9:58 remaining, and then used a 3-pointer by the senior with 17 seconds left to help the hosts take a slim 4-point margin, 37-33, into intermission.
The Lady Braves will be back in action again on Wednesday when they suit up to host league divisional rival USC Aiken (5-5, 0-1) in the front half of a 5:30 p.m. basketball doubleheader at the English E. Jones Center. Admission prices are $5 for adults and $2 for children 18 years of age and younger. UNCP students are admitted free with a valid Braves Card.