Hanging with Mr. Cooper: Junior guard fuels UNCP’s 41-point rout

First Posted: 12/1/2011

PEMBROKE If scoring is contagious, the Braves have the flu.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke mens basketball team came up just short in their quest for three straight games with triple digits Thursday night but the blowout result was more of the same against the Morris Hornets.
With a showdown against Lander looming, UNCP coach Ben Miller was pleased his team didnt get caught looking ahead against an inferior opponent who has lost seven of its last eight.
Weve got a veteran team and I think theyre mature enough to just go out and play regardless of the opposition, Miller said. Sometimes, playing with a big lead its human nature to look up and maybe not play as hard. Its a challenge that we try to work on and doing our best every possession.
Miller hopes the Braves infectious 95-54 rout of Morris, a tiny school located in Sumter, S.C., carries over to Saturdays Peach Belt Conference opener. A win over the division-leading Bearcats would push his teams streak to four.
We try not to look ahead too much, but we were able to see them (Lander) in person last week, Miller said. They got some good returnees and theyve added some really good pieces. Well get a good cram session in tomorrow and be ready for those guys Saturday.
Since a loss to Wingate on Nov. 22, UNCPs offense has been nearly unstoppable over its last three contests averaging 103 points per game with an emphasis on baskets in transition. A revitalized approach to rebounding has also helped the Braves dominate the glass against under-sized opponents. UNCP held a 20-board advantage in Thursdays win over Morris and scored 21 points after an initial miss.
Post players Mike Robinson, George Blakeney, Ben Jacobs and Nate Priest combined for 48 points down low, leading the Braves to a 54.5 percent shooting clip from the floor.
We have to keep playing well as a team and not get complacent with these wins, Priest said. We just got to stay focused.
The Braves went on a 19-3 run that spanned 6:30 of the first half against the Hornets, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from K.J. Cooper. Cooper poured in 18 first-half points as UNCP built a commanding 23-point lead. He finished with a season-high 20 to lead all scorers.
Hes worked extremely hard with his shot, Miller said. He doesnt have to make shots to be effective, but we want him to take open looks. He was one of the starters not in double figures average wise, but he might be about there now (after tonight).
Miller called UNCPs only timeout of the opening half 38 seconds into the game after Morris Landerius Fuller made an uncontested layup in the lane. Frustrated by a lack of intensity, the Braves fourth-year coach grilled his starting lineup and his players responded.
I didnt like our mindset at the start, Miller said. I thought our energy got better as the first half went on and our defense picked up a bit. We were pretty solid defensively and did some good things.
The Braves (5-3) will have one day of practice before returning to the court to take on the Bearcats. Lander already has a two-game lead in the Eastern Division after taking out Francis Marion in double overtime Thursday night in Florence, S.C.
Landers always a tough opponent, Priest said. They battle inside and its never soft with them. We really got to stay focused, keep our composure and win the rebounding battle.
Pushing tempo will be a key component in starting league play with a victory.
We have a lot of athletes that like to get up and down the floor, Priest said. I dont think anybody on our roster wants to take it halfcourt. We all want to push it. Thats our philosophy as a team.

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