Men’s Basketball Wins Fifth Straight & Stays In SoCon Hunt With Win At Mercer
MACON, Ga. – The UNCG men’s basketball team closed out the road portion of the regular season in impressive fashion as the Spartans went down to Macon, Ga., and came home with a 72-66 Southern Conference victory over Mercer Wednesday night at Hawkins Arena. The win improves the Spartans to 7-2 on the road in SoCon play, their best road record in league play in program history. Additionally, the win, coupled with Chattanooga’s loss, guarantees the Spartans can only finish in the No. 1, 2 or 3 seeds in the upcoming SoCon Tournament.
The victory is the fifth straight for the Spartans and improves UNCG to 21-8 overall on the year. The 21 wins are the second-most in program history for UNCG at the NCAA Division I level. The Spartans are now 12-4 in SoCon entering the final two games of the year in third place, one game behind ETSU and a half game behind Furman. UNCG closes out the regular season with two straight at home, beginning Saturday evening hosting VMI at Fleming Gymnasium at 5 p.m.
Redshirt freshman forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) recorded his third career double-double in the victory. Dickey scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds as he was 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. His play helped the Spartans out-rebound Mercer by a 37-29 margin, including 13 offensive rebounds, five alone by Dickey.
Sophomore guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) scored a game-high 25 points and dished out four assists in 30 minutes of play. Alonso connected on 7-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-7 from 3-point land, while hitting 7-of-8 from the free throw line. His four 3-pointers gives him 85 on the season, matching last year’s total and ranking third best in a single season in UNCG history. The Spartans improved to 11-0 on the year when Alonso hits four or more 3-pointers.
The Spartans connected on 43.6 percent (24-of-55) from the field and 47.6 percent (10-of-21) from the field in the victory. UNCG also was strong at the charity stripe, hitting 82.4 percent (14-of-17). Senior guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) finished with eight points, seven rebounds and six assists in the victory.
Mercer (13-16, 7-9 SoCon) connected on 41.5 percent (22-of-53) from the field but just 25 percent (4-of-16) from 3-point land. Desmond Ringer led the Bears with 18 points and six rebounds as he was 6-of-9 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Jordan Strawberry added 16 points and six assists while Ria’n Holland finished with 12 points.
The Bears opened up the game and went out to an early 12-7 lead on the Spartans. Mercer maintained its lead and held a 27-20 advantage when Stephon Jelks nailed a mid-range jumper. The Spartans responded with a 10-3 run to tie the game at 30-30. Sophomore guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) started the run with a jumper before the Spartans got back-to-back 3-pointers from senior center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) and Alonso.
Mercer would take a 36-34 lead into the locker room on a pair of free throws by Demetre Rivers. The Spartans connected on 12-of-28 (42.9%) from the field and 5-of-11 (45.5%) from 3-point land in the first half. Alonso led the way with 13 points in the first half. Mercer connected on 46.7 percent (14-of-30) from the field with Ringer leading the way with 11 points.
The game would go back and forth for most of the second half with Mercer taking a 45-40 lead. The Spartans would come back and tie the game at 48-48 when junior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) hit a deep 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring.
The teams were tied again at 56-56 before the Spartans got some breathing room with a 7-1 run. Baldwin gave the Spartans the lead for good with a 3-pointer while Alonso was fouled on a long range shot and nailed all three from the charity stripe for a 63-57 lead with 4:36 remaining.
Mercer kept battling and pulled within three at 65-62 with 3:24 remaining when Ringer scored down low. The Spartans kept the Bears at bay with a 7-2 run to take a 72-64 lead with 28 seconds remaining. Dickey scored the final five points of the run, including an emphatic 3-point play to punctuate the victory against the Mercer press.
-- UNCG --