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Braves stumble against PBC foe

By Nick Phillips

January 26, 2012

Ben Jacobs
Photo by Mindy Hubbard
UNCP freshman Ben Jacobs lays up a ball against Georgia College on Jan. 22. Jacobs finished with his first collegiate double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the Braves' 64-60 loss.

Four days removed from an emotional, energetic and enjoyable upset win over USC Aiken, the UNCP men's basketball team had no semblance of those same three words on Jan. 22, falling to Georgia College 64-60 inside the English E. Jones Center.

A win would have seen the Braves keep pace with USC Aiken for the top spot in the Peach Belt Conference's East Division and tie a program best with nine home wins on the season.

Instead, the Braves had one of their worst shooting games of the season, finishing at just a 37.7 percent clip, but the stat that did them in was their 18 turnovers and the 26 points Georgia College collected off of them.

The Black and Gold did win the rebounding battle, 43-32, marking a rare game when the advantage on the boards did not equal an advantage on the scoreboard. UNCP, playing without leading scorer Shahmel Brackett, saw eight of its nine players tally four or more points in the loss but only two finish in double-digits.

In contrast, Georgia College finished the game with zero points from its bench players, instead seeing four of its five starters have double-digit scoring days.

Freshman Ben Jacobs finished with a career afternoon, tallying his first collegiate double-double as he led the Braves in both scoring, with 13 points, and rebounding, with 11 boards.

Junior Ty Alston, playing heavier minutes off the bench due to the absence of Brackett, also finished with a career-high, scoring 12 points while grabbing three rebounds.

Aside from that, the Black and Gold saw only average games from everyone else, with fellow guards K.J. Cooper and Marcus Heath each finishing with seven points, while Miguel Starkey and Mike Robinson both had six points off the bench. Nate Priest finished with five points, and George Blakeney added four.

"Give the credit to Georgia College they earned it and they deserved it," UNCP head coach Ben Miller said after the game.

"We won the rebounding battle, but they won the fight for the loose balls and we couldn't get stops when we needed to," Miller added.

In a slow first half, neither team was able to grab an upper hand, as Georgia College was able to grab an early seven point lead in the first seven and a half minutes before the Braves used a 7-0 scoring run to knot things up halfway through the opening period. UNCP's largest lead of the half was a five point advantage, and they took a 24-19 lead into the locker room.

In the second half, the Black and Gold took what turned out to be their final lead at the 12:19 mark on three free throws from Alston.

From there, the visitors opened their lead with an 8- 2 run and the Braves were never able to get any closer than within three on a handful of occasions in the final minutes.

UNCP's final push in the closing seconds was negated by Georgia College's 6-of-8 shooting from the free throw line in the final half minute.

Looking ahead

UNCP will be put to the test to see if they want to remain at the top of the PBC's East Division over the coming games. The schedule will put them on the road for their next four games and five of their next six contests overall.

The Braves open their two-week road trip with a mid-week contest at Augusta State on Jan. 25 before playing back-to-back contests in Georgia days later. Columbus State welcomes the Braves to town on Jan. 28 before the Black and Gold will lace 'em up against Georgia Southwestern less than 24 hours later on Jan. 29.

The road trip ends on Feb. 2, when the Braves take the short ride down I- 95 to battle Francis Marion.

Following that contest, UNCP will finish the regular season with four of its six remaining games inside the friendly confines of the English E. Jones Center.

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