Road pothole flattens Braves' tire
By Nick PhillipsEditor
February 9, 2012
|Photo by NIck Phillips
|UNCP senior Nate Priest (No. 42) gets caught under the basket during the Braves' 79-74 loss at Francis Marion. Priest finished with four rebounds, two blocks and one point in the road loss.
An eight-point halftime lead evaporated and turned into a five-point, 79-74 loss for the UNCP men's basketball team on the road against Peach Belt Conference foe Francis Marion in Florence, S.C., on Feb. 2.
The Braves shot over 50 percent from the floor in the first half, but could not connect from the free throw line in the second half, ending the game by missing the front end of their final four 1-and-1 attempts in the final two minutes.
The loss ends a 1-3 road trip for UNCP over the past two weeks and marked the fifth time this season that the Black and Gold have lost a game by five or less points.
In the second half, both teams found themselves in the bonus for roughly the game's final 10 minutes, as the charity stripe doomed the Braves late. UNCP fin- ished the game shooting just 57.7 percent from the free throw stripe, their lowest since shooting 53.8 percent in a loss at UNC-Greensboro in November.
Braves junior Shahmel Brackett, a Florence native, led the visitors with a game-high 21 points. Brackett has saved some of the best games in his career for when he takes on Francis Marion, as he now has scored 21 or more points in four of the five matchups against him.
Brackett added five rebounds, three assists and a steal to his final statline in the loss.
Senior Marcus Heath finished with 18 points of his own while grabbing five rebounds and four steals, and freshman Ben Jacobs notched his second career double-double with a 12 point, 11 rebound night for UNCP.
Senior Mike Robinson, junior George Blakeney and freshman Griffin Pittman all tallied six points for the Braves as well.
After their strong first half shooting, UNCP still finished the night shooting 44.3 percent from the floor overall, but knocked down just five of their 17 three-point attempts.
UNCP raced out to an early nine point lead in the game's opening minutes before Francis Marion responded with a 14-4 run to make it a game as the two teams went back and forth before the Braves took a 41-33 lead to the locker room.
It took Francis Marion just under four minutes in the second half to cut the Braves' eight-point halftime lead down to 49-47 before the hosts took their first lead of the game at 54-53 five minutes later.
Francis Marion looked at an eight-point lead with 4:52 to go before UNCP raced back with a 10-1 run over the next two and a half minutes.
Brackett and senior Miguel Starkey combined to miss the four opening shots on the 1-and-1 attempts at the line to help Francis Marion push the lead back up and seal the game.
UNCP returns home for one night, Feb. 8, to host PBC East foe Augusta State before traveling to take on USC Aiken on Feb. 11.
The Braves then close out the 2011-2012 regular season with three of their final four at home, beginning with a rematch against Francis Marion on Feb. 18, followed by welcoming Armstrong Atlantic on Feb 18.
The Black and Gold will celebrate Senior Night on Feb. 19 against Flagler before closing out the schedule on Feb. 25 at Lander.