Nov. 15, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - Shahmel Brackett was 4 feet behind the 3-point line.
Didn't matter. The shot clock was winding down, and his UNC Pembroke Braves were behind by a point.
Brackett let it fly, a hand in his face.
That didn't matter, either.
Brackett hit nothing but net, lifting the Braves to a hard-fought 75-73 victory over the Fayetteville State Broncos on Tuesday night at Felton J. Capel Arena.
"A great game with a great atmosphere against a great team," said Fayetteville State head coach Alphonza Kee. "We'll learn from it, but this was a great experience for our kids."
In a brilliant contest that featured 22 lead changes and 12 ties, the Braves (2-1) rallied from two eight-point, second-half deficits to slip past the Broncos (1-1). Six-foot 9 George Blakeney blocked Jamel Carpenter's driving runner with 0.3 seconds remaining, and Fayetteville State was unable to come up with a miracle shot to send the game into overtime on a desperation lob as time expired.
Brackett bookended the game, hitting a 3-pointer while being fouled to convert a four-point play just seconds into the game to give the Braves a 4-0 lead - their largest lead of the game. The Preseason All-American led all players with 21 points while Marcus Heath, who made three 3-pointers in the first half, finished with 13 points. Blakeney added 10 points for UNC Pembroke.
Carpenter (Sr., Salisbury, N.C.) led the Broncos with 14 points while John Herrington (Sr., Jacksonville, Fla.) added 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field. Tim Plummer chipped in 10 points to go with a game-high three steals.
Pembroke, which reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history last season and finished with a school-record 18 wins, held a significant advantage on the glass, outrebounding Fayetteville State 39-25. But the Broncos countered with a tenacious zone defense and an efficient halfcourt offense, shooting 54 percent from the field to lead for much of the game.
Pembroke had four late chances to take the lead, but the Broncos came up with the necessary stops, getting rebounds by Carpenter, Herrington and Tyrrel Tate
, who also drew a charge to give Fayetteville State a chance to build its lead.
But the Braves matched the Broncos defensively, setting up the final possession with 37 seconds to go.
After a timeout, Pembroke settled into its deliberate halfcourt set, trying to find Brackett on a curl. He was well defended his first trip through behind the back screen, and was forced to take the ball deep behind the 3-point line at the top of the key. With a Broncos' defender in his face, Brackett let go a high-arching shot, quieting the large Capel Arena crowd when it went through the bottom of the net.
It proved to be the game-winner.