Stifling press defense and steady scoring fueled No. 21 Lander’s 76-59 win Wednesday night against UNC Pembroke.

The Bearcats (20-3, 15-0 Peach Belt) extended their winning streak to 16 games and remained perfect in the conference.

“I thought our defensive pressure stepped up tonight, and that was the real difference in the game,” Lander coach Kevin Pederson said. “It’s a good win for us against a good team that’s playing well right now.”

After leading by just two points after the first quarter, Lander opened the second quarter on a dominant 21-2 run and built a commanding 41-18 lead.

Lander made five 3-pointers during the run with Sarah Crews making two on consecutive possessions. Aniaya Jester, Jessica Harris and Cierra Revelle each made one.

The Bearcats forced 31 turnovers in the game and held UNC Pembroke to 43.2% shooting. Lander took a 44-24 lead into halftime, which was all the separation it needed.

“UNC Pembroke was doing a good job against the first press we put out there, so we came back out and gave them a different look against the press,” Pederson said. “That seemed to give them a hard time. Once we gave them a different look and stayed with them up the court, they started struggling.”

Lander capitalized off its press defense, scoring 40 points off turnovers. Freshman point guard Zamiya Passmore continued her strong start to her career at Lander, scoring a game-high 17 points with four assists.

Passmore has taken over the starting point guard position for Harris, who was moved to the wing.

“Keep in mind, Jessica Harris was the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year last season, and she played point guard for us,” Pederson said. “It tells you what we think about Zamiya Passmore.

“I don’t know many teams that move their reigning conference player of the year to the wing to create room for a freshman. But we knew coming in to the season that we had something special with her. If Zamiya Passmore isn’t the freshman of the year in this league, then something’s wrong.”

Lander moved one step closer to a Peach Belt Conference title with the victory. The Bearcats have a two-game lead over North Georgia and will have a chance to extend that lead when the teams play 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Contact sports writer Wesley Dotson at 864-943-2530 or follow him on Twitter @WesleyPDotson.