After edging out Lenoir-Rhyne the day before by a mere five points, the UNCP Braves men’s basketball team dominated the Catawba Indians on the way to a 91-67 blowout victory at Lumbee Guaranty Bank Court.
The Braves put an exclamation point on the final game of the PBC/SAC Challenge with impressive outings by several upperclassmen and a pair of up and coming freshmen. As a team they scored 25 points off of 20 turnovers and converted 17 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points. UNCP outmatched the opposition 50-31 in total rebounds
“I hope we’re a team that can feed off of our defense,” UNCP head coach Ben Miller said. “Where even when shots aren’t falling or things are struggling, that our defense can give us energy. We did challenge these guys to kind of try to set the tone each half with our defensive energy and effort and I thought it was a little bit better.
“We still have to improve in different things in terms of our execution but will give it effort and we continue to learn and grow like we did today I think our defense can be pretty good.”
Redshirt senior Forward Nigel Grant led the Braves in scoring with 18 points and recorded his second double-double in as many games with 11 rebounds. Sophomore Forward Akia Pruitt recorded the ninth double-double of his collegiate career by putting up 11 points and pulling down 10 boards. Junior forward James Murray-Boyles put up 10 points before leaving the game.
Miller was impressed with Grant’s ability to procure double digit rebounds in back-to-back games.
“We all know that he can score the ball as well as anybody and he’s a big strong dude,” Miller said.
The Black and Gold got strong performances from a trio of freshmen, including a 16-point outing from guard David Strother. Freshman Guard Jamal Bryant put up 14 points, a trio of assists and five rebounds. The other standout new comer of the night was freshman Guard Tyrell Kirk, who recorded seven defensive rebounds and nine points.
“It felt good,” Kirk said. “They trusted me and [Jamal] to go out there and play our game. We did pretty good on the defensive end, getting rebounds on the defensive end helped us a lot.”
Miller said that he saw flashes of what the potential the younger components of his team could contribute in exhibition games but everything is now starting to come together.
“It’s really hard when you’re a new player and you’re trying to learn the offense and learn the defense,” Miller said.
Jerrin Morrison led the Indians in both points and rebounds with 16 and eight, respectively. Malik Constantine and Jeremy McLaughlin both racked up 11 points as Catawba shot 50 percent from the field, including 8-of-16 from the perimeter.