Or just continue to feed Marcus Heath when he has the hot hand.
With first-place in the Peach Belt Conference’s East Division on the line, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke men’s basketball team attacked No. 19 USC Aiken head-on from start to finish and rode Heath’s career-high 23 points to an emphatic home win.
“This is what we’ve worked for the last few days,” Heath said. “Coaches did a great job coming up with a gameplan and we went out and executed and played hard.”
Heath’s hoop-and-harm with 2:05 remaining put the Braves up by 11, nullifying a brief Pacers run to get back in the game. UNCP (12-5, 6-1) hit 6-of-8 free throws in the final 52.4 seconds to ice it. The Braves limited USC Aiken (12-3, 6-1) to a season-low 37.7 percent from the floor and forced 17 turnovers.
UNCP trailed by one at the 17:37 mark of the second half but went on an 11-1 run highlighted by two 3-pointers from K.J. Cooper to break the game open. Cooper finished with 15 points for the Braves who won for the third time in their last four tries against the Pacers.
“I thought both teams really played their butts off,” UNCP coach Ben Miller said. “You had two very good teams, two very good defensive teams and two motivated teams. It’s kind of cool to be one of those schools now that’s competitive against the rest of the league.”
UNCP had the rare luxury of five days of preparation for the Pacers and it showed early with a feisty, fresh defense. The Braves limited USC Aiken to 27 first-half points and took a two-point lead at intermission on a pair of late free throws from Heath.
“It was intense all week and the guys on the practice squad gave us what we needed,” Heath said.
UNCP’s Shahmel Brackett, an all-PBC preseason nominee, left the game with 7:32 remaining and did not return. He scored 11 points in 19 minutes before hearing something pop in his foot.
“We’re hoping it’s just a bruise with Shahmel,” Miller said. “We’ve got to get it checked out and we’ll know more about it tomorrow. We are fortunate to have some depth.”
Lady Braves equally impressive against Pacers
The UNCP women's basketball team snapped USC Aiken's school-record 12-game winning streak Wednesday night, handing the Pacers their first loss in conference play, 52-46, at the English E. Jones Center.
The Lady Braves (7-8, 4-3) never trailed in a contest dominated by defense. UNCP limited the 11th-ranked Pacers (13-2, 6-1) to a 30.4-percent effort from the floor and scored 18 points off 18 turnovers.
Domonique Washington, who led the Lady Braves with 14 points,put her team ahead by 11 with 6:17 to play with a layup through the lane. UNCP's offense struggled from there as USC Aiken pulled to within one with 49 seconds remaining.
"I thought (Washington) struggled at times tonight, and we just told her when you get the ball, just put your head down and go until someone stops you," UNCP coach John Haskins said. "She made that play against their press in transition and scored that layup, and then I thought late in the game her two steals were what won the game for us."
Five consecutive foul shots — four by Washington and one by Taylor Gallentine — and two crucial steals finalized the score as UNCP snapped its three-game losing streak in the series with USC Aiken.
Reach Staff writer Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at email@example.com