MORROW, GA – Second-seeded and 24th-ranked UNC Pembroke used an 11-0 run late in the first half to take the lead for good and then connected on 60 percent of its second-half shots to hold off third-seeded Francis Marion University for a 94-75 win, Saturday evening (March 3) in the semifinals of the 2018 Peach Belt Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.
Francis Marion drops to 20-9 and now must await the announcement of the NCAA Division II Tournament field on Sunday night (10:30 p.m.) to see if the Patriots' season will continue. FMU was ranked sixth in the latest Southeast Region poll with eight teams earning berths.
UNCP (25-5) will face top-seeded Clayton State University (a 73-70 winner over USC Aiken in the first semifinal) in Sunday's championship game at 2 p.m.
Senior guard Detrek Browning, who picked up his PBC Player of the Year award prior to tip-off, was held to a season-low 11 points and now stands five points shy of setting a new conference career scoring record.
All-PBC performer Akia Pruitt led UNCP with 20 points, while Tyrell Kirk scored 19 and Nigel Grant 16.
The Patriots took a five-point advantage (23-18) on a three-pointer from the left corner by sophomore forward Kendall Wall with 8:10 left before halftime. Kirk then kick-started the 11-0 UNCP run that gave the Braves the lead for good. FMU trailed 37-32 at halftime.
After being held to only four points over the opening 20 minutes, Browning scored Francis Marion's first seven points of the second half. His first bucket, a strong baseline move in the paint, trimmed the margin to 38-34.
However, the Braves put together a 24-10 spurt that took the margin to 18 points at 62-44 with 12:03 on the clock.
A three-point play by Davis got the Patriots to within 68-57 with 9:05 left, but that would be as close as FMU would get. UNCP connected on 18-of-30 second-half shots.
The Braves also used a 24-4 edge in points off turnovers.
Francis Marion finished the game shooting 43.3 percent from the floor, including 9-of-22 from behind the three-point arc, and was a near-perfect 14-of-15 at the foul line. The Braves shot 57.6 percent, including 6-of-18 from three-point territory, and hit 20-of-27 shots at the charity stripe.
FMU head coach Gary Edwards said, "Hats off to UNC Pembroke. They played great in all aspects of the game. Offensively they were outstanding and defensively they shut us down, and did a good job on Detrek. They were by far the better team tonight.
"We really didn't have an answer at either end of the floor. We made a couple of runs here and there, tried a little of everything, but the Braves were the better team. There is a reason they and Clayton State tied for the regular-season title and are playing for the tournament title tomorrow."
When asked what he told his team in the locker room afterwards, Edwards replied "It does look like we will get an NCAA bid. I told them that we will live to play another day. How bad would it have felt if this was the last game, especially for the seniors, but its not. But because of the effort, sacrifice, and hard work they put in all year they have put themselves in a position that this was not the last game.
"Not a lot of teams will be practicing on Monday – just 64 in Division II – and we will be one of them. That is quite an accomplishment. Now we will roll up our sleeves on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and be ready to play whoever we get matched with."
3-3-18 6:03 PM at Morrow, Ga.
#24 UNC PEMBROKE 94, FRANCIS MARION 75
FRANCIS MARION (20-9, 14-8)
Ryan Davis 6-11 6-7 19; Brandon Parker 6-11 2-2 18; Detrek Browning 4-11 2-2
11; Warren Specht 3-6 2-2 9; Victor Hunt 2-5 0-0 5; Judah Alexander 1-5 2-2
4; Jaquez Smith 2-7 0-0 4; Kendall Wall 1-2 0-0 3; Kingsley Nwagboso 1-2 0-0
2. Totals 26-60 14-15 75.
UNC PEMBROKE (25-5, 19-3 PBC)
Akia Pruitt 7-11 6-7 20; Tyrell Kirk 8-15 0-0 19; Nigel Grant 5-10 5-8 16;
James Murray-Boyles 3-3 8-10 14; Brandon Watts 4-11 0-1 9; Micah Kinsey 4-4
1-1 9; Jamal Bryant 2-2 0-0 5; David Strother 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 34-59 20-27 94.
Halftime: UNCP 37 Francis Marion 32
3-point goals--Francis Marion 9-22 (Brandon Parker 4-8; Ryan Davis 1-1;
Victor Hunt 1-2; Warren Specht 1-4; Kendall Wall 1-1; Detrek Browning 1-5;
Jaquez Smith 0-1), UNC Pembroke 6-18 (Tyrell Kirk 3-8; Brandon Watts 1-3;
Jamal Bryant 1-1; Nigel Grant 1-3; David Strother 0-2; Akia Pruitt 0-1).
Fouled out--Francis Marion-Detrek Browning, UNC Pembroke-None.
Rebounds--Francis Marion 30 (Judah Alexander 8), UNC Pembroke 32 (Brandon
Watts 11). Assists--Francis Marion 13 (Warren Specht 5), UNC Pembroke 14
(David Strother 5). Total fouls--Francis Marion 22, UNC Pembroke 18.
Technical fouls--Brandon Watts. A-457