With five games left in the regular season, No. 3 Augusta State is cruising toward its first goal: win the division.
George Johnson and Ben Purser combined for 42 points Monday night and the Jaguars rolled to a 73-54 win over UNC Pembroke.
With the victory, Augusta State (21-2, 11-2) extended its home winning streak to 43 games. The Jaguars now own a four-game lead over Armstrong Atlantic State and USC Aiken in the Peach Belt Conference East Division. Augusta State also owns a two-game lead in the win column over Georgia Southwestern for the overall conference lead.
"It'd be great to win the division," Jaguars coach Dip Metress said. "After that, the challenge will be to win the conference outright."
Metress will go for career win No. 300 when Augusta State travels Thursday night to Georgia College & State. The Jaguars finish their road trip Saturday at Montevallo.
"We've got to bring a consistent effort," Purser said. "It wasn't perfect (tonight), but any win's a good win this time of the year."
Johnson made a season-high six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 23 points -- 19 in the second half off five 3-pointers. Purser was 8 for 11 from the field with 19 points.
Augusta State came out sluggish, shooting 36 percent from the field in the first half. Johnson missed his first five shots until drilling a 3-pointer just before intermission. The Jaguars used an 11-2 run to go up 28-19 at the break.
Johnson kept his momentum going. He knocked down his first five shots of the second half, including three consecutive 3-pointers in a 69-second stretch. Johnson's 3-pointer with 14:28 to play staked Augusta State to a 41-23 lead.
"Coach got me open," Johnson said. "I had to make those shots."
UNC Pembroke (14-8, 7-7) watched its three-game winning streak come to a close.
The Braves entered the game after posting 90 points in a win over Francis Marion and then 110 in a triple-overtime victory over Flagler.
Augusta State's slow-tempo offense served as a good defense against a UNC Pembroke team averaging 77.2 points a game. The Jaguars shot just 45 percent from the field, but they also limited the Braves to 39 percent shooting.
"We weren't good offensively, but at least we weren't quick," Metress said. "That's just kind of the way we've played this year."
Augusta State won despite getting outrebounded 38-28. Also, the nation's best free-throw shooting team made just 18 of 26 attempts from the line (69 percent).
Franck Ndongo added 13 points and a team-best nine rebounds for the Jaguars.
Nate Priest came off the bench to lead UNC Pembroke with 10 points. The Braves shot 3 for 15 from the perimeter and committed 18 turnovers.