On the second of two overtime games for UNCP basketball on Jan. 6, the men’s team relied on a dominant defensive performance and impressive outings from some of the team’s upperclassmen leaders to secure a victory in double overtime with the final score of 82-75.
On their way to their fourth straight victory, the Braves believed that they had the game in hand at the end of regulation, and then again at the end of the first overtime period, until the Bobcat’s Jordan Thomas tied the game in the winding seconds of both periods with timely three pointers.
Senior Brandon Watts hit a clutch three pointer with just under four minutes left in the second overtime period as the Braves would extend the lead for the last time. Watts and junior James Murray-Boyles led the team in scoring on the day with 18 points each and Boyles also recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds.
“I was just trying to lock back in because we thought we got it sealed and then couldn’t pull it through, so I was just trying to focus in on defense,” Murray-Boyles said.
Sophomore forward Akia Pruitt also recorded a double-double by putting up 14 points, and he led the team in defensive rebounds with 10 and total rebounds with 14.
After putting up 13 points, redshirt senior Nigel Grant was on his way to potential a double-double himself before he fouled out early in the second overtime period. Many of the Braves’ top performers were flirting with foul troubles all game long as Pruitt, Murray-Boyles and Micah Kinsey all finished with four.
“Even though Nigel fouled out it’s never really hard to take anything and put it on myself. We still have JB and we still have Akia, who is our leading rebounder, and when we bring in those guys we can still score on the inside close to the same rate,” Watts said.
Head coach Ben Miller said that he is extremely proud of the amount of grit and toughness exhibited by his team during this win streak – even the games that weren’t so pretty. His team agreed.
“Even the games that we play where it’s hard for us to score, we always know we can lock in and play defense so as long as we buy into that and keep playing defense the way we can we’re going to keep winning games in situations like this,” Watts said.
“Usually when we’re not scoring the ball as well as we can we always say in the huddle that we need to just control what we can control. What we really focus on is rebounding and defense so that’s where we always lock in at when it’s going it’s going towards the worst,” Murray-Boyles added.