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Braves Pull Away from Barton Late in Home Opener

Senior James Murray-Boyles led the team in scoring with 18 points. PN photo/Trevon Knight

The UNCP men’s basketball took down the Bulldogs of Wingate University 76-69 on Lumbee Guaranty Bank Court in the Braves home opener on Nov. 20 in decisive fashion. The Black and Gold was once again dominant in the paint as the tied a conference record with 14 blocks and put up 21 second chance points off of offensive rebounds.

The Braves were absolute bullies in the paint on the day as they out rebounded Wingate by 25 (56-31) and had every player that touched the court for them corral at least two boards. They will enter Thanksgiving break as well as a 10 day pause in action riding a two-game winning streak and feeling good about their well-balanced team.

It was a tightly contested affair for most of the day, feature multiple scoring runs by both teams and even though when it appeared that the Braves were giving themselves some breathing room or distancing themselves, the Bulldogs would claw their way back and keep it close with some proficient shooting from three-point range (15/31).

“It’s actually not uncommon for our defense to have a higher three-point percentage. The way we defend, the way we have offense is all 15 feet. We want to protect 15 feet…We actually had to make an adjustment defensively and tell our guys almost to stop helping (each other), which goes against how we practice every single day,” said Assistant Coach Drew Richards.

The first half started off going back and forth until the Black and Gold went on a 12-2 run to build a 21-11 advantage. They would hold a 13-point lead midway through the opening stanza (26-13) before the Bulldogs would chisel away at that deficit and even take one-point lead into the half 35-34 after a 11-2 run.

“Their shooters are pretty relentless when they shoot so they are always looking for their shot, but we made adjustments going towards the second half, which is always stay aggressive,” said senior James Murray-Boyles.

UNCP would open up the second half with an 9-0 run to regain the lead and would not yield it again the rest of the way. Even though they would not take back the lead, Wingate would trail by a single point with just under 10 minutes to play in the final half. However, the home team would pull away and secure the victory with a late 12-0 run.

“In the second half coach (Miller) challenged them at half time to play our brand of basketball and I thought multiple guys came out and really decided to play the style of play that has made us successful and I think that made a big difference down the stretch,” said Richards.

The Braves had three players post double-digit point and nearly record double-doubles as they each came up just short of recording double-digit rebounds as well. Murray-Boyles lead the way with 18-points, most of which came in the second half surge and all seven of his rebounds came on the defensive end.

“My goal is always to be aggressive when I come on the floor. I knew I didn’t attempt that many shots in the first half, but I still wanted to play with the same mindset in the second half,” said Murray-Boyles.

Junior Akia Pruitt came in just behind him scoring with 15 points, eight rebounds and lead the team with four blocks. Second-year guard Tyrell Kirk finished with 11 points, three blocks and a team high nine rebounds.

“When he plays really strong, I don’t think anyone can stop him. In the second half especially, he played some of his strongest basketball of the year. I think that made a huge difference,” said Richards of efforts and Pruitt’s contributions.

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