The UNCP men’s basketball team returned home to face off with the Mountain Lions of Young Harris College on Feb. 10 during alumni weekend.
With their 70-61 triumph over their Peach Belt Conference foe, the Braves not only extended their latest win streak, but they also secured head coach Ben Miller’s record breaking 170th career win and officially put him atop the program’s all time wins list.
Miller took over the reigns of the program before the 2008-2009 season. Over the past decade he has compiled a 170-119 record during that span.
“I’m just happy about today’s win and just having the chance to coach these guys. They care about each other, they care about this program and the wins are more about the tradition and history,” Head coach Ben Miller said.
Miller mention how humbling his first couple of years at the helm of the program were when the team was only able to muster single digit win seasons. There were members of those early struggling seasons in attendance for alumni weekend and coach praised the fact that those guys were able to weather the storm and were integral pieces in helping the team turn the corner to improve their fortunes in year three when the team made the NCAA tournament and began to reestablish a winning culture.
“My freshman year we were really good, but it’s been a long time coming. We’ve had a lot of good seasons under [Miller]. Since I’ve been here we’ve had two 20- win seasons and hopefully this one should end in the 20 plus win season, too” senior Brandon Watts said.
The two teams traded blows and exchanged leads throughout the first half of the game as neither team built a double-digit lead in the half. The Black and Gold held the lead for the first 12 minutes of the opening period until the Mountain Lions went on a 6-0 run to establish a 30-23 lead with just under five minutes left before halftime.
The Braves answered the call by going on a 10-0 run of their own to close out the half with a 35-32 lead heading into the locker rooms. The Braves would jump out to an eight point in the first couple minutes of the second half, but Young Harris would continue to whittle the deficit down and ultimately claim a 57-56 advantage at the 6:31 minute mark. However, the Black and Gold closed out the contest with a 13-3 run to put them ahead for the final margin of victory.
“We didn’t shoot as well as we have sometimes, but the fact that these guys have that confidence even when it’s not pretty and it’s an ugly game. Young Harris does a good job of kind of junking it up and making it ugly, they get a lot of steals. They have confidence that our defense and our rebounding can carry us through” Miller said.
Redshirt senior Nigel Grant once again led the team in scoring with 16 points and freshman David Strother came in second on the team with 13, which included going 7-9 from the free throw line. Junior James Murray-Boyles came off the bench to post his second double-double of the season by leading the team with his career high 12 rebounds and 10 points.
“Coach definitely pushed us and I don’t even know if he knew that he was going to be the winningest coach coming into this game until we told him after we beat Augusta, so it’s definitely a good feeling” Grant said.