FLORENCE, S.C. – In the opening game of the 2008 Francis Marion/Zaxby’s Tipoff Classic UNCP fell to Coker College, 80-71, in men’s basketball action as the Cobras’ Mason Ambler and Josh Poston combined for 46 points on Friday night at the Smith University Center on the Campus of the Patriots.

The Cobras (3-0) stayed perfect on the season by shooting 55.6 percent from the floor and out-rebounding UNCP (1-2) 35-25. Ambler was the games leading scorer racking up 24 points for Coker with Poston adding 22 of his own.

Junior forward Brandon Thomas posted a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds for the Braves, both career-highs. Senior guard Demarcus Lyday added 16 points to UNCP’s total and junior Scott McNeil added 12. 

Coker jumped out to an early 11-6 lead before UNCP went on an 8-0 run to earn their first lead of the contest at 12-11. The Cobras would go on to score 15 points over the next six minutes to just four for Pembroke. Coker built up its biggest lead in with 3:58 left in the period at 31-19 before taking a 39-30 lead into halftime.

Thomas and Jason Smith combined for 15 of UNCP’s halftime points with Thomas leading the way with eight. The junior from Cherryville, N.C. also led the team in rebounds pulling down six of Pembroke’s 11 boards in the opening frame.

Coker’s Ambler scored 14 first half points with Poston adding 10 to the Cobras’ total. The Cobras shot 52.0 percent from the floor while holding the Braves to only 44.0 percent.

The two teams scored 41 points each in the second half with the first half deficit dooming the Pembroke squad. The Braves pulled to within seven of the Cobras with 6:30 left in the contest at 61-54, but Coker’s offense was too much for the young Pembroke team outscoring the Black & Gold 19-17 the rest of the way.

UNCP will play the Savannah College of Art & Design at 4 p.m. to close out the FMU Tipoff Classic while Coker will play host-team Francis Marion at 6:00 p.m.