PEMBROKE — Beatdown.
That’s one way to describe what the UNC Pembroke men’s basketball team did to North Georgia on Sunday afternoon inside the Jones Center.
With every dunk, layup and 3-pointer, the Braves looked like they were in a glorified practice en route to a dominating 101-68 win over the Nighthawks.
It was the largest margin of victory over a Peach Belt Conference foe in school history for the Braves (20-4, 16-2 PBC), who secured back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time under coach Ben Miller.
UNCP scored a season-high 63 points in the first half and shot 73 percent from the floor. The Braves logged 14 layups and five dunks before halftime.
Akia Pruitt, who scored a game-high 22 points to lead five Braves in double figures, had never experienced a start like that on the hardwood.
“Coach told us that we should start the game playing the first four minutes as hard as we could,” Pruitt said. “That’s what we tried to do.”
After an emotional win on Saturday that saw Miller pick up his record-breaking 170th victory at UNCP, the Braves showed no signs of fatigue, using a 30-3 run to make the game a laugher.
“Back-to-back games is not always easy,” Miller said. “One of the reasons we did this: it simulates a little bit of what postseason play can be like when you have to play back to back. I thought the guys responded well and played hard. We had a great team effort.”
The Braves needed less than four minutes to take a double-digit lead. Nigel Grant initiated the authoritative beating with a one-handed slam over a North Georgia (10-14, 8-10) defender to give UNCP an early 13-2 lead.
From then on, the Braves held a lead that only grew wider and wider as North Georgia got no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
Pruitt caught a lob from Grant. Micah Kinsey turned a steal into a high-flying two-handed dunk.
And Tyrell Kirk knocked down a corner 3-pointer to beat the first-half buzzer, letting out a yell as the Braves sprinted into the locker room with a 63-26 lead.
“As long as they get stops and rebounds, that really feeds our transition. I don’t think confidence has been an issue for these guys,” Miller said.
“Individually, I think they have confidence. I think they’re starting to build a collective confidence in each other on both ends of the floor.”
Grant finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. James Murray-Boyles came off the bench to tally 19 points and nine boards in just 16 minutes of action. Lumberton native David Strother added 13 points and a team-best six assists. Kirk finished with 12 points.
The only drama came in the final two minutes as fans waited for the Braves to reach 100 points. Bryson Hall delivered the goods — and the loudest cheer of the day — with a layup at the 1:15 mark for UNCP’s final tally.
It was the first points of the season for the senior leader, who provided a fitting end to the day for the Braves.
“It felt great. I just wanted to do my part,” Hall said. “It’s always good to get in.”
If the Braves play like they did on Sunday, Hall will have plenty of opportunities for more playing time.
UNCP will close the regular season with three of its final four games at the Jones Center, starting with USC Aiken on Wednesday.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.