PEMBROKE — In a rematch of last year’s Peach Belt Conference tournament championship game, Columbus State got revenge for the 12-point loss at the hands of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke men’s basketball team on Sunday behind a second-half surge.
Despite winning the rebounding battle by 10 and having just three second-half turnovers, the Braves’ offensive struggles came back to bite them with scoring coming too little too late in a 70-67 loss.
“They’re a good offensive team and we held them under 40 percent shooting and out-rebounded them by 10 and only had 12 turnovers. Got to put the ball in basket a little better,” UNCP coach Ben Miller said. “The guys had good effort. You’ve just got to make shots.”
UNCP (5-3, 1-1 PBC) used its rebounding margin in the first half to hold a lead for much of the frame and keep Columbus State close. The Cougars led 33-31 at the half courtesy of a run in the final six minutes that turned a six-point deficit into the lead.
That momentum carried over as Columbus State (2-3, 2-0 PBC) came out of the locker room to take an 15-point lead within the first eight minutes. Leading that run was the work on the offensive glass and the play of senior guard JaCori Payne.
Payne scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the first eight minutes of the half as the lead went out to its highest. Then the Braves mounted their comeback.
Leading the Braves comeback was the core group that played a big part in the conference championship game last year, forward Akia Pruitt and Nigel Grant.
Grant scored nine of his team-high 16 points after the Cougars’ lead went to 15 points, and Pruitt had six as the Braves closed on a 25-13 spurt.
“We just kept a next-play mentality. We know bad things happen whether it’s in game or in practice,” Grant said. “We just kept pushing through trying to persevere.”
The chances were there late for the Braves as Columbus State didn’t hit a shot from the floor in the final three minutes. Pruitt missed a pair of free throws and a missed shot from Micah Kinsey, Brandon Watts and Grant after UNCP cut the lead to two with less than two minutes was the way the Braves ended the contest.
For the game, UNCP shot a season-low 31 percent from the field, including a 4-for-27 from 3-point range.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can shoot it, for the most part didn’t eat into our defensive effort,” Miller said. “When you have a chance to win shooting it like that, it says a lot about how they worked.”
After falling to Barton earlier in the week, the Braves look to rebound from their first two-game losing streak since Jan. 30 on Tuesday for a 10 a.m. tipoff against Georgia Southwestern. The quick turnaround is one way Miller feels his team can rebound from the loss.
“I think these guys will bounce back. Fortunately it’s a quick turnaround and we’ve got a chance to get the bad taste out of our mouths on Monday morning,” Miller said.
Grant had his first double-double since the second game of the season against Catawba with his 16-point, 13-rebound game. Pruitt added 14 points of his own. Joining Payne in double figures for Columbus State was Marcus Dixon with 15 points.
Final three quarters push Columbus State women to win
The UNCP women’s team forced 31 turnovers, but coach John Haskins said that other offensive and defensive flaws led to a loss that he considers to be uncharacteristic of what his program has been known for in the past.
UNCP (2-4, 0-2 PBC) forced nine first-quarter turnovers as both teams shot better than 50 percent from the floor to find themselves tied, before visiting Columbus State (4-2, 2-0 PBC) used the scoring of its two experienced guards to run away with a 99-79 win.
The turnovers fueled the good shooting in the first quarter for the Lady Braves, but when the turnovers weren’t coming the shots weren’t falling. UNCP shot 30 percent from the floor over the final three quarters.In the first quarter it scored 10 of its 25 points off turnovers.
“We’ve just got to be better defensively. It comes into playing team defense,” Haskins said. “We scored 79 points and I would feel good scoring that much but we gave up 99 points. You’ve got to come down and guard every possession. Whether it was on the men’s side or the women’s side we’ve been known as a good defensive team and right now we’re not.”
The Lady Cougars’ Tatiana Wayne led all scorers with 25 points and was joined by senior Machala Raymonville’s 24-point effort and Tatum Jarvis’ 20 points.
UNCP held Columbus State’s lead to 43-38 heading to halftime, but was outscored 28-11 in the third quarter. The second and third quarters were when the shooting woes came the hardest for the Lady Braves, going a combined 8-for-32 from the field.
“We did put a lot of pressure on our offense not being able to stop them,” Haskins said.
Leading the Lady Braves’ scoring was Avery Locklear with 13 points and contributions from Alecia Hardy with 11 points and Nyla Allen and Tee Graham added 10 points each.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.