GREENWOOD – The Lander men's basketball team outscored No. 18-ranked UNC Pembroke 50-34 in the second half and upset the Braves 88-80 in Peach Belt Conference action Wednesday night at Horne Arena.
The Bearcats snapped a seven-game losing streak to UNC Pembroke, improving to 8-13 overall and 7-8 in the Peach Belt.
Lander has now won six of its last seven games at Horne Arena.
"We believe in each other," said interim head coach Ryan Hilburn. "We've just got to keep fighting. We had a great environment tonight, the fans were great, the energy in this place was awesome and our kids played their tails off."
The Braves fell to 16-4, 11-3. They are tied for second place with Augusta and Francis Marion in the PBC standings behind USC Aiken.
The Bearcats entered the night in seventh place in the Peach Belt and with the win improved their chances of qualifying for the conference tournament.
Lander trailed 46-38 at halftime but rallied in the second half in front of 857 fans on Spirit Night.
Marquel Wiggins paced the Bearcats with 18 points and three blocked shots. He scored 16 of those 18 points in the second half.
Sidney Robinson added 14 points for Lander, including three three-point baskets and a highlight reel dunk.
Akia Pruitt paced UNC Pembroke with a double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 boards. James Murray-Boyles scored 16 points for the visitors, while David Strother added 11 points, eight boards and four steals. Cam Hamilton scored 10 points off the Braves bench.
The Bearcats took an 18-16 advantage with 12:10 left in the half when Holliday made a contested three-pointer from the left corner with just three seconds left on the shot clock.
UNC Pembroke regained the lead and was up by as many as nine, 35-26, with 4:30 to go when Pruitt made a pair of free throws. Jordan Dingle's three pulled Lander within 37-33 with 2:51 left and TJ Knight's open layup cut it to 39-35.
Holliday grabbed a long offensive rebound and hit a jumper at the buzzer to cut Lander's deficit to 46-38 at the half.
The Bearcats opened the second half with a 12-4 run, tying the game at 50 when Morris Robinson Jr. made a breakaway layup off a Rucker steal with 14:50 left.
After Jayvian Hicks made a three-pointer to beat the shot clock and give the Braves a 53-50 lead, Lander responded. Wiggins drove the lane for a dunk and then he spun in the lane and hit a layup to give the Bearcats their first lead since the opening eight minutes of the game, 54-53.
Lander went on a highlight reel run to build an eight-point lead. Sidney Robinson soared for a one-handed dunk off a fast-break alley-oop pass from Holliday for a 60-56 lead with 10:34 left. Elijah Alston and Morris Robinson Jr. made threes, and then Wiggins grabbed Purdie's missed layup and dunked for a 68-60 advantage with 8:12 to go.
Morris Robinson Jr.'s three from in front of the Bearcats bench gave the hosts a 73-64 lead with 6:09 left. Dingle's floater in the lane handed Lander a 75-68 advantage with 4:20 to go.
Sidney Robinson's three from the left corner increased the Bearcat lead to 78-69 just inside the four-minute mark.
Murray-Boyles made a three from the right corner to pull UNC Pembroke within 80-74 with 2:05 left.
Wiggins tipped in a teammate's missed layup for an 82-74 Lander lead with 1:18 to go. Wiggins scored again on a driving layup to make it 84-76 just inside the minute mark.
Murray-Boyles made a layup off a Bearcats turnover to pull the visitors within 84-80 with 29 seconds to go.
But Purdie hit two of two free throws with 25 seconds left to extend Lander's lead back to six. Wiggins added two more free throws, making it 88-80 with 14 ticks to go.