Men’s Basketball Picks Up First Win At Western Carolina Since 2008
CULLOWHEE, N.C. – For the fist time since 2008 and just the fourth time in program history, the UNCG men’s basketball team left the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee with a win as the Spartans posted a 76-68 victory over hosting Western Carolina Saturday. The victory snapped an eight-game losing streak for the Spartans in Cullowhee, marking their first win since Feb. 21, 2008.
“We found a way to win on the road today,” head coach Wes Miller said. “It wasn’t the prettiest victory at all but it’s our first win here in Cullowhee in eight years. We had guys step up and make some plays for us today, getting contributions up and down our lineup. Three straight road games is tough this time of the year, but we came away with two wins and can now return home for a big game Wednesday night.”
The victory improves the Spartans to 18-8 overall on the season and 9-4 in Southern Conference play. The 18 victories for the Spartans ranks sixth-best in program history and marks the most wins in a season since 2007-08. The Spartans 9-4 record in the SoCon keeps UNCG in third place overall in the league with five games remaining. Additionally, the Spartans improved to 5-2 on the road in league play, matching their most road SoCon wins in a single-season in program history with the 2006-07 team (5-4 SoCon).
Sophomore guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) led three Spartans in double figures with a game-high 24 points, 19 of which came in the second half. Alonso connected on 7-of-13 from the field, 5-of-9 from 3-point land and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. He hit his first four 3-pointers of the second half and as 5-of-6 in the final 20 minutes of the game from deep.
“Francis is really tough to deal with coming off screens and puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses,” Miller said. “His play in the second half got our offense going and opened up a lot of other areas for our team.”
Senior center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) added 17 points and seven rebounds, while also blocking three shots. White connected on 7-of-12 from the field and hit 3-of-5 from the free throw line. Junior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) added 12 points, all of which came in the first half as his play helped the Spartans overcome a slow start. Smith finished the game shooting 4-of-5 from 3-point land while grabbing six rebounds.
“Marvin Smith had some big shots for us today,” Miller said. “We didn’t come out very good today and had problems taking care of the ball. He got our team going by hitting some big 3-pointers and our team settled in behind him. It was good to see him step up with confidence today.”
The Spartans connected on 48.2 percent (27-of-56) from the field and hit 54.5 percent (12-of-22) from 3-point land. Their shooting from deep helped them overcome 13 turnovers and 17 offensive rebounds by the Catamounts. Western Carolina (7-19, 2-11 SoCon) connected on 41.2 percent (28-of-68) from the field and just 21.4 percent (3-of-14) from deep. Devin Peterson led the Catamounts with 20 points while Haboubacar Mutombo chipped in 17 points in the loss.
Western Carolina came out of the gate and opened to a 16-4 run, forcing UNCG into an early timeout. Peterson scored 10 straight points for the Catamounts as WCU took advantage of eight UNCG turnovers in the early going. Western Carolina extended its lead to 20-9 with 10:25 remaining when Mutombo scored in the paint.
UNCG started to settle in and posted a 19-6 run on its way to closing the first half on a 29-11 run to take a 38-31 lead into the locker room. Smith started the comeback by hitting three straight 3-pointers ad finished with four shots from deep during the stretch. Sophomore guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) added eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
The Spartans finished the first half shooting 51.9 percent (14-of-27) from the field, including 11 out of their last 17 shots from the field. UNCG connected on 6-of-13 (46.2%) from 3-point land with Smith leading the way with 4-of-5 shooting from deep for a team-high 12 points. Troy added eight points off the bench on 3-of-4 shooting form the field while White chipped in seven points and three blocked shots in the first half.
Western Carolina was held to just 35.3 percent (12-of-34) shooting from the field and only 20 percent (1-of-5) shooting from deep. The Catamounts took advantage of nine UNCG turnovers in the first half, scoring seven points off of miscues. Peterson finished the half with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting while Haboubacar Mutombo chipped in six points.
Western Carolina came out of the break and posted a 12-5 run to tie the game at 43-43. Mutombo started the run with a 3-pointer in the corner before Peterson scored five straight to knot the game at 43. The Spartans answered back with a 15-5 run to take a 58-48 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining. Alonso got going during the run, hitting three straight from deep and redshirt freshman forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to extend the lead to double figures.
The Catamounts kept coming as they pulled within four at 60-56 with an 8-2 run as Marc Gosselin scored six straight, forcing a UNCG timeout. Again, the Spartans responded with a run of their own, notching a 12-2 run to take a 72-58 lead with 3:44 remaining. Alonso began the run with a 3-pointer before White scored on back-to-back dunks. Senior guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) buried a 3-pointer for his lone basket to put UNCG in front by 14 points. The Spartans held off the Catamounts down the stretch as Alonso hit his fifth 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining to seal the victory.
Troy finished the game with eight points, four assists and four rebounds as he was 3-of-5 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers. Freshman Kyrin Galloway (Milton, Ga./Milton) added six points and six rebounds off the bench in a career-high 18 minutes.
The Spartans return to action Wednesday night as they host Wofford in SoCon play. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum and UNCG will wear black uniforms for the first time in program history.
-- UNCG --