Menís Basketball Tallies Fifth Straight Win By Topping Liberty, 72-65
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball continued its best start in over 10 years as the Spartans improved to 6-2 overall with a 72-65 victory over Big South Conference member Liberty Saturday night at Fleming Gymnasium. The Spartans’ 6-2 mark through eight games is their best start since opening the 2004-05 season with a 7-2 record.
Additionally, the Spartans have now won five straight games, matching last year’s season-best five-game winning streak from Feb. 15-25. UNCG, as a program, is now 12-4 over last 16 games dating back to last season.
Senior center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) led the way on the night, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes of action. White connected on 6-of-8 from the field and hit 4-of-11 from the free throw line. Junior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed six rebounds as he was 5-of-10 from the field and 6-of-7 from the charity stripe.
Sophomore guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) added 15 points off the bench as he was clutch from the free throw line hitting all 10 of his attempts. Senior guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) added nine points and three steals while sophomore guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) finished with eight points, four assists and four steals in his first start of the year.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 42 percent (21-of-50) from the field, including just 29.4 percent (5-of-17) from 3-point land. UNCG went to the free throw line 36 times, converting on 69.4 percent, but hit 16-of-21 (76.2%) in the second half. The Spartans out-rebounded the Flames by a 37-33 margin and forced Liberty into 17 turnovers.
Liberty (4-4) ended the night shooting 40.4 percent (21-of-52) from the field and just 29.6 percent (8-of-27) from 3-point land in the loss. Caleb Homesley added 18 points and 10 rebounds while Ray Chen chipped in 14 points off the bench, including 6-of-7 from the free throw line.
The two teams started off slowly as UNCG held just a 6-3 lead six minutes into the game. The Spartans started to find their way offensively and held the Flames in check as they opened to a 15-3 lead. Smith scored the first five points of the game and gave the Spartans the 12-point lead with a pair of free throws with 6:43 remaining in the half. The Spartans held the Flames to just 1-of-15 shooting over the first 13 minutes of the game.
The teams kept battling with White scoring seven first half points. Troy gave the Spartans their largest lead of the half at 25-7 as he nailed a 3-pointer for the 18-point advantage. UNCG went into the locker room hold a 33-18 lead as Smith scored at the buzzer after a pass from White in the closing seconds.
The Spartans connected on 43.5 percent (10-of-23) from the field and 40 percent (4-of-10) from distance in the first half. UNCG was just 9-of-15 (60%) from the free throw line in the opening 20 minutes through and committed eight turnovers. Smith led the way with 13 points while White added seven in the first half. Redshirt freshman James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) led the way on the glass with seven rebounds as UNCG held a 20-17 edge on the glass.
Liberty connected on just 17.4 percent (4-of-23) from the field and 13.3 percent (2-of-15) from distance but hit 8-of-10 (80%) from the charity stripe. The Flames also committed 10 first half turnovers as Caleb Homesley led the way with seven points and five rebounds.
UNCG extended its lead at 42-24 at the 13:50 mark of the second half as it forced back-to-back turnovers and Baldwin scored four quick points on the break. Liberty kept battling and scored the game’s next seven points, capped by a Homesley 3-pointer to trim the deficit to 42-31 with 12:21 remaining.
The Spartans kept the distance between them as Troy hit a 3-pointer for a 47-33 lead but Liberty again responded with eight straight points to trim the gap to six at 47-41 with 8:52 remaining. Each time the Spartans were pressed, they responded as Baldwin converted a 3-point play and Alonso hit a pair of free throws.
Liberty started to hit 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the second half to make the game interesting, but UNCG was clutch on the free throw line. Homesley hit a 3-pointer to make it a 68-62 game with 40 seconds remaining but Alonso hit two free throws on the ensuing possession. Lovell Cabbil hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining to make it a 70-65 contest but Smith iced the game by hitting two free throws. Dickey put the exclamation point on by blocking the final shot attempt of the night by the Flames.
The Spartans return to action in less than 48 hours as they host Mars Hill at the Greensboro Coliseum Monday night. The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off and will be aired on the SoCon Digital Network.
-- UNCG --