Photo by Joshua Reed
The UNCP men’s basketball team took on the Augusta University Jaguars at home at Lumbee Guaranty Bank Court on Jan.10 in front of a rowdy home crowd for one of the most anticipated matchups of the season.
The Braves put the clamps on the top offense that the Peach Belt Conference had to offer by limiting them to a season low 34.2 shooting percentage and tying a season high with 11 total blocks on the night.
After getting out to a red hot 18-7 start early in the first half, the Braves found themselves down by three heading into halftime following some missed shots and an uncanny 1-16 shooting by the Black and Gold to head into the break.
The Braves wouldn’t regain the lead until later in the second half and were all knotted up with the Jags at 55-55 with just under four minutes left to play. While the visitors from Augusta out-rebounded the Braves 50-37, most of which were accumulated during the home team’s bizarre scoring drought, they never led by more than four points, due to a tenacious defensive effort by the Black and Gold.
Despite boasting a dismal shooting percentage from the field, freshman David Strother from Lumberton was near perfect from the free throw line, which proved to be the lead and game sealing points for the Braves on the evening.
Senior Brandon Watts racked up a season high 24-points, as if he were in a shooting gallery and not a basketball court, and it seemed as if he wouldn’t miss the entire evening early on in the first half when the Braves jumped out to the early lead.
Strother tied for second in scoring with senior Nigel Grant, who recorded his seventh career double-double with a team leading 12 rebounds, with 11-points a piece, while the freshman also corralled seven boards as well as tying a career high five assists.
“We started off making shots and they’re good defensively and made us work for it. I didn’t realize that there was a stretch like that (1-of-16), fortunately our defense was good enough to keep us close,” Head coach Ben Miller said. “One of the reasons we recruited him (Watts) and guys like David (Strother) is that they contribute in so many different areas so that even if Brandon or David is having an off-shooting night they’re still going to find other was to contribute.”
“You don’t really realize it’s 1-for-16 when you’re getting stops and it’s only a three-point game, so I didn’t realize we shot it that bad, but I knew we weren’t scoring well,” Watts said about his team’s uncanny scoring drought in the first half.
In regard to his team’s ability to hold the Jaguars potent offensive attack to 34 percent Watts said: “the key to every game is we want to hold a team below 40 percent because we know we’re capable of doing it so there’s no reason not to do it.”