GREENWOOD, S.C. – The Columbus State University men’s basketball team dropped an 89-77 decision Sunday to UNC Pembroke in the Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship. The final was played inside Horne Arena at Lander University.
Darius Joell led all scorers with 21 points, while JaCori Payne added 19. Ryan Burnett finished with eight points and three other Cougars chipped in six apiece.
Columbus State will now await its NCAA Tournament fate, which will be announced during the NCAA selection show Sunday evening at 10:30 p.m.
“I thought we played a pretty good basketball game,” head coach Robert Moore said. “Some of the looks we got in the second half didn’t drop and that was the difference in the game.
“Give UNC Pembroke credit. They are a very tough team and they made more plays in the second half.
The lead changed hands 11 times through the first nine and a half minutes of the game, as neither side was able to take any control.
Trailing by one, Columbus State (20-9) went on a 7-0 run capped by 3-pointers from Vic Ellis and Joell to take its largest lead of the day at six, 28-22. The Cougars would stay in front for the rest of the half, taking a 46-41 edge into halftime.
UNC Pembroke (24-7) made halftime adjustments and erased the Cougar advantage with a 7-2 start to the second half. The Braves began to create separation near the midpoint of the half, opening the widest margin to that point at 67-58.
Payne and Joell then took over the next three minutes for the Cougars, combining for 10 straight points that seesawed CSU in front by a point.
Columbus State’s lead lasted only nine seconds before the Braves hit a pair of free throws and the Cougars would trail the rest of the way.
A tough layup from John Lambert got CSU back within one at 71-70, but UNCP scored the next 10 points and put the game away.
CSU shot 46.9 percent (30-for-64) from the field, but made just 5-of-18 3-point attempts. The Cougars were 12-for-19 from the free throw line.
UNC Pembroke finished at 53.1 percent overall after shooting 60 percent in the second half. The Braves were 15-for-21 from the line and won the battle on the boards 36-28.