Following a three game winning streak and finals week, the Braves dropped two straight games by a combined seven points, and then proceeded to rattle off three-straight hard-fought victories, two of which came on consecutive road trips.
The team relied on strong overall defensive efforts to ignite their winning streak after struggling to start off the holiday break from school, but not struggling long in basketball.
The Braves kicked off winter break with a 4-point loss, 85-89, to the Barton College Bulldogs on Dec. 14. Despite freshman David Strother’s game best, 22 points in the second half, the team could not overcome the atrocious percentage from the free throw line to claim a victory.
Although UNCP received double digit point performances from prominent players such as Brandon Watts, Akia Pruitt, Nigel Grant and Micah Kinsey, the Braves shot 16-for-39 from the free throw line.
he following week the team returned home to face the Columbus State Cougars at Lumbee Guaranty Bank Court and lost 67-70. The defeat not only snapped an eight-game home winning streak for the Braves, but it also ended an 11-game win streak against Peach Belt Conference opponents.
Black and Gold cut the Cougar’s 15-point lead to a 2-point lead in the second half with less than two minutes left in regulation. Kinsey’s potential game-tying 3-point shot bounced off the rim with virtually no time left on the game clock.
Senior Nigel Grant recorded his sixth career double double at UNCP after he put up 16 points and corralled a career-best 13 rebounds.
Two days following the home-game loss, the Braves redeemed themselves by defeating the Canes of Georgia Southwestern, 83-71, on Education Day in Pembroke.
The team shot over 48 percent from the field and the season high 13 perimeter shots made from long range put an end to their two-game slump. Senior Brandon Watts led the Black and Gold in scoring, going 5-of-8 for 17 points.
Freshman David Strother was right behind Watts with 16 points of his own, James MurrayBoyles went 5-of-7 for 13 points and both Akia Pruitt and Tyrell Kirk racked up 11 points each.
The Braves took to the road to face off with the North Georgia Night Hawks on the first of a two-game stint away from the comforts of their home court and crowd.
After UNCP built up a 19-point second half lead on the home team, the prideful bunch fought and clawed back to cut the lead down to two points with just under three minutes left in regulation.
When it seemed as if a comeback was surely imminent, the Braves defense shutdown all hopes of a victory for the patrons of Memorial Hall on Saturday afternoon Dec. 30.
Senior Nigel Grant went 9-of-13 for a team leading 19 points, while teammates Watts and Pruitt both put up 16 points a piece in the Braves ground out triumph.
In the second of a two-game road campaign, the Braves overcame an early first half 17-point hole, as well as going for a pitiful 1-of15 when shooting from the perimeter, to secure a 81-78 victory over the Bearcats of Lander University on their first game of the new year (Jan. 3).
Once again, Grant exhibited his dominance as UNCP rallied to win, and he led the team in scoring for the second straight game with an impressive 9-of-14 for 25-points, including the team’s only made long range shot. In the Braves’ third straight victory Watts went 7-of-15 for 17-points on the day and junior Murray-Boyles came in third with a dozen points of his own.