UNCP achieves winter excellence, near .500
By Markus Franklin
Assistant Sports Editor
The UNCP men’s basketball team started out winter break on a tremendous high by winning their first three games. The Braves hit a bump in the road following that, losing four consecutive games. The Braves were able to match their win total from last year by winning their first three, but unfortunately have not been able to get that elusive seventh win as they sit with a record of (6-8, 1-6 PBC).
On Dec. 10 the Braves hosted Johnson and Wales University and defeated them for the third consecutive time, 72-49. UNCP’s Jonathan Hart led all scorers with 26 points, one shy of his career high.
Jarrell Hunter also recorded the first double-double of his career by scoring 13 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
The Braves continued their winning ways Dec. 13 by defeating Coker College 70-61.
This game was close throughout, but the Braves went on a 9-0 run the final 2:08 to put the game away.
Hart led all scorers with 24 points and Hunter missed another double-double by two rebounds.
UNCP hosted Davis and Elkins on Dec. 17 and pulled out a close 58-53 victory at home. Hart continued his scoring prowess and led the Braves in scoring by posting 23 points, his third straight game scoring 20 or more.
The win marked the first time since the 99-00 season that the Braves were able to win three games in a row.
Knights get first win
The Braves then went on the road and that’s where things went sour. The Braves traveled to Laurinburg and lost to St. Andrews 62-46.
The victory was the first of the year for the Knights as they dropped 44 points on the Braves in the second half.
Hart was once again the leading scorer, but this time with only 14 points. Hunter led the Braves on the boards as he picked up seven rebounds to lead the team for the fifth time this year in that department.
The Braves traveled to Armstrong Atlantic and lost 71-48. UNCP was physically dominated, while committing 17 turnovers.
Hunter was the only Braves player to score in double figures as he posted 12 for the night. Hart was plagued with foul trouble early on and never got his game going in the right direction.
UNCP then came back home, but any advantage the Braves expected to have when coming back home was for naught as the No. 24 Augusta State Jaguars came into town and destroyed the Braves 72-49.
UNCP shot 36 percent from the floor and were once again out rebounded by 37-22.
When asked about his team’s performance lately Coach Jason Tinsley said, “We have been out rebounded every game since Christmas break and our point guard play is not what it needs to be.”
Tinsley sees areas to improve for his ballclub. The Braves need to address their rebounding and point guard needs for the second half of the season.
UNCP is still trying to reach its elusive seventh win that would make this season better than last and hopefully turn this team around from the bottom of the Peach Belt Conference.
The Lady Braves basketball team won four of their six games during winter break to improve their record to (7-7, 2-5 PBC).
The Lady Braves were led by Natalie Ray as she averaged over 10 points per game in six contests. Victoria Willis also helped the Braves with her senior leadership on the court.
The Braves traveled to the Georgia College Classic on Dec. 14-15 and split both of their games.
In the first game, Willis led the Lady Braves with 16 points and seven assists.
Ray recorded her sixth straight game with double digit points by scoring 10 points as the Lady Braves recorded a 58-34 win over Southern Polytechnic State.
The Lady Braves used a 22-4 run to start the second half and never looked back on their way to the victory.
During the second game of the Classic, the Braves lost their shooting touch as they only shot 29 percent in the second half. After blowing a comfortable halftime lead, the Braves couldn’t recover as they fell to Lenoir-Rhyne, 52-43.
Willis led her team with 10 points and was only the player to score in double figures for the Lady Braves.
Ray had her streak of sixth straight games of scoring in double digits snapped in the losing effort.
UNCP then came back home Dec. 17 and were able to post an impressive win over Chowan 58-44.
Ray continued her excellent play by posting her fifth career double-double and John Haskins collected his 50th win as a coach.
Ray dominated the boards as she collected 12 rebounds and helped the Braves record their sixth straight win over Chowan at the English E. Jones Center.
On the road
The Lady Braves traveled to St. Andrews after the holidays and unlike their male counterparts, they were able to leave town with a 67-50 win. The Braves were led by Willis’ 16 points and Jatoya Kemp and Chevoya Jackson both contributing 10 points, respectively.
With the win, the Lady Braves improved their record to 5-4 on the season and improved their overall record against St. Andrews to 23-4.
UNCP was back on the road again Jan. 5, this time traveling to Armstrong Atlantic.
The team took a tough loss on the road, 61-58, and has now lost seven of their last nine against Armstrong Atlantic.
Ray was once again the leading scorer for the Braves as she registered 15 points, but three different AASU players scored in double figures.
AASU also helped their own cause by going on a 10-2 run when the Lady Braves went cold from the field.
All things considered the Lady Braves had a successful string of games during winter break.
Four wins out of six games is a tremendous success for this program. If the Lady Braves are able to consistently play solid defense and shoot well from the free throw line, a successful second half of the Peach Belt Conference schedule should be in order for the Black and Gold.