PEMBROKE — Quamain Rose made his mark as a redshirt freshman for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke men’s basketball team last season, ranking among the Peach Belt Conference leaders in steals on his way to rookie of the year honors.
In Friday’s home opener against Limestone, Rose unveiled another element of his game — the ability to score.
Rose scored a game-high 26 points and handed out 11 assists in helping UNCP stay unbeaten with a 76-64 victory over the Saints.
The Braves (4-0) take on Belmont Abbey in the UNCP Invitational final today at 6 p.m.
“He’s one of those players you just kind of let loose,” UNCP coach Ben Miller said. “He’s streaky and really tough to guard. Our effort level as a whole was pretty good tonight for our first home game, but we can get better.”
The 6-foot guard from Whiteville drained two floaters and a nifty layup over the final 2:33 of the first half as the Braves closed the frame on a 6-0 to take a 10-point lead into intermission.
The jaw-dropper was the final bucket coming on a coast-to-coast drive during which he crossed over Limestone forward Shaq Dance at the 3-point line and got to the rim in traffic.
“When you’re playing in front of family and friends, it’s a different feeling,” Miller said. “I think our guys, especially Quamain, fed off some of that energy after a little sluggish start.”
Brandon Winford, who came into the game with double-figure outings in each of UNCP’s first three games, made nine of the 12 shots he took in the lane and finished with 18 points. Winford’s proven to be a low-post threat when the Braves weren’t sure what he’d have this season inside.
“I’ve been able to find some openings and my teammates have been getting me the ball for easy points,” Winford said.
UNCP led comfortably throughout, but the Saints made noise in the second half with nine 3-pointers.
Trailing by as many as 17 after intermission, Limestone’s Josh Odem pulled the Saints to within nine at 64-55 with just over five minutes to play. It was as close as Limestone (2-1) would get once UNCP’s Griffin Pittman scored six of his eight points down the stretch.
P.J. Foster hits seven 3-pointers for the Saints to fuel his team-high 23-point effort. The Saints, who went 21-9 last season, take on Coker for third place this afternoon.
UNCP led the Peach Belt in home attendance last season and welcomed a crowd of 1,247 Friday night. The Braves trailed twice in the first three minutes before the first of four 3-pointers from Rose gave his team a lead they would never relinquish.
“We had about a two-week stretch there where all we did was travel and I think that took it out of us a bit,” Miller said, referring to exhibition games at N.C. State, North Carolina and Georgia before a weekend trip to Puerto Rico. “It was nice to be back home on our floor. Our guys like playing here in front of our fans.”
Reach staff writer Brad Crawford at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.