The Black and Gold are off to their best start in almost three decades, and were riding high on a five-game winning streak heading into a three-game road stint against Columbus State, Georgia Southwestern, and USC Aiken beginning Jan. 13.
They managed to extend that streak to eight, going 3-0 during their time away from Lumbee Guaranty Bank Court. With wins coming by four, twenty-one and sixpoint margins, respectively, the Braves once again showed why they are a force to be reckoned with in the Peach Belt Conference.
Their first game against Columbus State came down to the wire at the Frank G. Lumpkin Center on Jan. 13.
The Black and Gold leading scorer on the night with 19 points was junior James Murray-Boyles who managed to tie the Peach Belt Conference record for team blocks in a game (14). Akia Pruitt was the defensive force for the Braves after he managed eight blocks on his own to go along with eight rebounds.
Senior leader Brandon Watts also recorded his eighth career double-double by posting 14 points and 10 rebounds, as the Braves went on to win 73-69.
Game two of the road trip was less of a contest for the Black and Gold as they blew past the Hurricanes of Georgia Southwestern on Jan. 15.
Although the score was tied 37-37 at the half, a late surge lead by Brandon Watts helped the Braves outscore the Hurricanes 41-20 in the second half to end up with a final score of 78-57. The win stopped Georgia Southwestern’s win streak at five, and it was the sixth straight win in the entire state of Georgia for UNCP.
While senior Nigel Grant only managed a 29 percent shooting from the field, he made up for it by coming up just one rebound short of a yet another double-double.
The final game of the road stretch was another close one as UNCP defeated USC Aiken by a score of 93-87 on Jan. 17. USC Aiken was lights out shooting from the perimeter with a 56 percent from behind the arc, but their field goal percentage was strangely lower at 48 percent.
The Pacers were down by 21 in the first half, but managed to grind the lead down to five with 52 seconds left in the game. The Braves would go on to make nine out of ten free-throw attempts to ice the game away and hold onto the win.
Pruitt lead the team in scoring on the night by tying a career high of 25 points and corralled seven rebounds. Grant notched his fifth double-double of the season, and the eighth of his career, by posting 19-points and leading the team with 13 rebounds.
Watts and freshman David Strother came in third and fourth in scoring on the day with 17 and 14-points respectively.