FLORENCE, SC – Freshman forwards Winston Hill (24 points) and Kailex Stephens (22 points) each recorded new career highs to help lead the Francis Marion University men's basketball team to an 82-79 win over the University of North Georgia on Saturday (Dec. 1) in the Peach Belt Conference opener for both squads.
The Patriots (4-1, 1-0) return to the Smith University Center on Tuesday (Dec. 4) against the University of Mount Olive at 7 p.m.
Hill's 24 points led all scorers, and came in just 18 minutes of action off the Francis Marion bench. With his 22 points, Stephens is the lone Patriot to score in double-figures in each of the team's first five games. Senior guard Ryan Davis added 17 points and a team-high six rebounds.
The Nighthawks had four players score in double-figures, led by junior Ephraim Tshimanga's 19. He also handed out a game-high eight assists. Joining Tshimanga in double-digits were junior Zez Steeple (15 points), junior Lanre Olatunji (12 points), and senior Shawn Hopkins (11 points). Hopkins entered the contest leading the PBC in scoring at 20.8 points per game, but was held to only 4-of-16 shooting by the Patriots.
Senior forward Brandon Parker scored FMU's first five points and Stephens followed with the next eight, including back-to-back triples, to put the Patriots in front 13-8 in the opening five minutes. A Hill three-pointer stretched the advantage to 20-12 at the 11:38 mark, giving Francis Marion their largest lead of the opening stanza.
North Georgia whittled the margin to three at 31-28, and then went on a 9-0 run to open-up a six-point lead, its largest of the contest. FMU closed out the first half on an 8-2 run, which was capped off by a Davis layup at the buzzer, to take a 42-39 advantage into halftime.
In the opening minutes of the second half, four points each from Davis and Stephens helped the Patriots stretch their edge out to 50-43. UNG responded with a 7-0 spurt to even the contest at 50-50. A three-pointer by FMU junior guard Jaquez Smith halted the Nighthawks' run, but North Georgia regained the lead at 57-55 with 13:30 remaining on a Tyler Dean jumper.
Francis Marion countered with an 11-0 run, which included seven points from Hill, to go back in front 66-57 near the midway point of the half. A basket by Stephens at the 7:47 mark stretched the FMU advantage to 10, the largest of the game, at 70-60. The Nighthawks again had an answer, using a 13-3 run to even the contest at 73-73 with 2:16 remaining.
Hill put the Patriots back in front for good at the 1:36 mark, completing a three-point play. After a Tshimanga basket cut the lead back to one, Hill brought the home crowd back to its feet with an emphatic slam dunk. FMU iced the game from there at the free throw line.
"It wasn't our greatest game, but the guys hung in there and we grinded it out," FMU head coach Gary Edwards said. "We battled some foul trouble early and so the twin towers, Winston and Kailex, were huge for us today. Those two are already great players and are going to be two huge building blocks for us going forward."
FMU made 31-of-67 attempts from the field (46.3 percent), while North Georgia went 33-of-64 from the floor (51.6 percent). The Patriots' defense held the Nighthawks to four makes on 25 three-point attempts, and turned 19 UNG turnovers into 22 points. Francis Marion committed a season-low 10 turnovers.
12/01/18 3:30 pm at Florence, SC (Smith University Center)
FRANCIS MARION 82, NORTH GEORGIA 79
NORTH GEORGIA (4-2 , 0-1)
Tshimanga,Ephraim 8-9 3-6 19; Steeple,Zezmon 6-12 1-2 15; Olatunji,Lanre 6-7
0-2 12; Hopkins,Shawn 4-16 2-4 11; Cottrell,Zach 4-7 0-0 9; Dean,Tyler 4-9
1-1 9; Singleton,De'Undra 1-1 2-3 4; English,Roderick 0-0 0-0 0; Howard,Jack
0-3 0-0 0. Totals 33-64 9-18 79.
FRANCIS MARION (4-1 , 1-0)
Winston Hill 10-16 2-2 24; Kailex Stephens 9-16 1-2 22; Ryan Davis 6-13 5-11
17; Je'Quan Perry 1-6 4-6 7; Brandon Parker 3-8 0-0 7; Jaquez Smith 1-4 0-0
3; Douglas Dwight 1-1 0-0 2; Alex Cox 0-0 0-0 0; Kendall Wall 0-3 0-3 0.
Totals 31-67 12-24 82.
Halftime: Francis Marion 42 North Georgia 39
3-point goals--North Georgia 4-25 (Steeple,Zezmon 2-7; Cottrell,Zach 1-3;
Hopkins,Shawn 1-11; Howard,Jack 0-2; Dean,Tyler 0-2), Francis Marion 8-26
(Kailex Stephens 3-6; Winston Hill 2-5; Je'Quan Perry 1-5; Jaquez Smith 1-3;
Brandon Parker 1-4; Kendall Wall 0-2; Ryan Davis 0-1). Fouled out--North
Georgia-None, Francis Marion-None. Rebounds--North Georgia 45 (Hopkins,Shawn
8), Francis Marion 31 (Ryan Davis 6). Assists--North Georgia 16
(Tshimanga,Ephraim 8), Francis Marion 21 (Je'Quan Perry 6). Total
fouls--North Georgia 19, Francis Marion 20. Technical fouls--North