RALEIGH, NC – The William Peace men's basketball team pushed their win-streak to five games Wednesday night, taking down North Carolina Wesleyan, 84-82.
With six regular season games left, WPU has already surpassed last year's win total, improving their overall record to 10-9. The Pacers are 6-2 in the USA South, which is good for second place in the conference with games against first place Averett (8-2) and third place Greensboro (6-4) this weekend.
Shawn Shaffer drained a three for a 6-5 edge early on, but NC Wesleyan (10-10, 4-5 USAS) went on an 11-1 run to go ahead by nine (16-7) with 13 minutes left in the first. Trailing by eight (18-10) a minute later, Nate Strotherhit a pair from beyond the arc and capped a 12-0 run with his fourth triple of the game, giving the Pacers a four point (22-18) lead at the 8:37 mark.
WPU went 10-of-17 (58.8%) from long-distance in the opening half and only recorded two field goals that weren't of the three-point variety. The Pacers went 42.9% from the field on 12-of-28 shooting and took a three point (38-35) lead into the break.
Brandon Brown gave the Bishops a two point (54-52) lead at the 10:49 mark, but WPU used an 11-2 spurt to go up seven (63-56) with 7:09 remaining, and then Jalen Vincetook over from there. Vince scored 13 points down the stretch, going 8-of-10 (80%) from the stripe to equal his career high of 19 points. He also added three steals and three assists in the second half.
The Pacers only hit one three-pointer in the second half, but they made up for it at the free-throw line going 17-of-23 (73.9%), while shooting 50% (14-of-28) from the field. They finished the game shooting 46.4% (26-of-56) from the field, 11-of-26 (42.3%) from downtown, and 21-of-29 (72.4%) from the line.
"They have some shot blockers and some length inside. We showed some indecision early on, but we did a much better job drawing contact and getting to the free throw line in the second," said head coach Claude Shields. "We're one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the conference, so that was big for us."
Despite being outrebounded, 40-30, the Pacers took care of the ball and forced NC Wesleyan to cough it up 16 times for 22 points at the opposite end. WPU also held the Bishops to a 44.3% (27-of-61) night from the field and kept them off the free-throw line, where they went 9-of-10 (90%).
"We didn't rebound well in the first half, but we tightened things up and executed our game plan better in the second," Shields said. "We wanted to trap more coming off ball screens and forced 11 turnovers. We also held them to only three offensive rebounds, and kept them to 44% shooting, which is something we struggled with earlier this year."
In addition to Vince's career night, three other Pacers reached double-figures. Strother finished the game with 17 points, four rebounds and a steal. Shaffer had 16 points, a team high 7 rebounds, one assists and a steal. Ryan Emfinger added 12 points, six rebounds, an assist and a steal. Michael Wolf had four assists without a turnover to go along with five points, a rebound, and a pair of steals.
For NC Wesleyan, Brown had a double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds, not to mention five assists and a steal.
The WPU men's basketball team returns to action this Saturday, as they host Greensboro College at 2:00 p.m. The Pacers host Averett the next day at 1:00 p.m.