Men’s Basketball Guts Out 74-67 Victory Over VMI
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team had an eventful 72 hours but the Spartans powered through a team-wide illness that impacted both student-athletes and coaches to record a 74-67 victory over visiting VMI Saturday evening on campus at Fleming Gymnasium. The victory improves the Spartans to 22-8 overall on the season and 13-4 in Southern Conference play, running their winning streak to six straight games. UNCG is currently in third place in the league, one game behind first-place ETSU and a half game behind second place Furman.
The win sets up a pivotal, winner-take-all contest Monday night for the number one seed in the upcoming SoCon Tournament as the Spartans host ETSU at 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum. The winner of Monday’s game will be SoCon regular season champions and earn the top seed in the tournament, while the loser of the game will be the third seed in the tournament.
The 22 wins are second-most in a single season in UNCG history at the NCAA Division I level, just one shy of the program-record 23 wins in the 1994-95 campaign. Additionally, the 13-4 SoCon record marks the most SoCon wins in a single-season for the Spartans in program history. The Spartans’ current six-game winning streak is the third winning streak of at least six games this season for UNCG, a first in program history.
“We were a little sluggish and we didn’t play our best, but we found a way to win,” head coach Wes Miller said. “Give credit to VMI as they are a tough team and play hard every possession, which is a testament to that group. We were out of sync offensively and not practicing the past two days because of the illness certainly played a part in our struggles. Despite all of that, we made some big plays when we needed it and RJ (White) gave us some key baskets in this game.”
Senior center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) led four Spartans in double figure scoring with his third double-double of the season and 12th of his career. White scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds as he was 7-of-12 from the field and 3-of-5 from the free throw line. Sophomore guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) added 17 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point land and 6-of-7 from the free throw line.
Redshirt freshman forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) added 10 points and eight assists as he was 4-of-6 shooting from the field. Junior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) added 10 point in 27 minutes of play.
UNCG finished the night shooting 44.1 percent (26-of-59) from the field and just 30.4 percent (7-of-23) from distance in the victory. The Spartans dished out 17 assists while only committing nine turnovers with sophomore guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) leading the way with six assists and zero turnovers.
QJ Peterson led VMI with 22 points but was held to just three points in the second half. Trey Chapman chipped in 17 points while Adrian Rich added 12 points in the loss. The Keydets were limited to 36.7 percent (22-of-60) shooting from the field and 32.1 percent (9-of-28) from 3-point land Saturday.
The Spartans opened up the game and went out to an early 18-10 lead. Freshman Malik Massey (Charlotte, N.C./New Hampton Prep) and Alonso hit early 3-pointers before freshman forward Kyrin Galloway (Milton, Ga./Milton) converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to give the Spartans an eight-point advantage.
VMI (6-22, 3-14 SoCon) responded with an 18-5 run to take a 28-23 lead with 8:54 remaining in the first half. Peterson was the catalyst, scoring 13 of the 18 points while Keith Smith scored the remaining five points to give the Keydets the five-point lead.
After Peterson hit a 3-pointer for a 33-30 lead with 5:11 remaining, the Spartans tallied a 10-2 run to take a 40-35 lead with 1:20 left. Alonso scored five points in the run while Massey added three points. The Keydets got a basket by Chapman with 19 seconds remaining to head into the locker room down just three at 40-37.
The second half was nip and tuck as the teams traded baskets and the game never got more than a five-point advantage for the Spartans in the first 10 minutes of the second half. After Chapman tied the game at 55-55 with 8:08 remaining, the Spartans notched a 8-1 run to get themselves breathing room with a 63-56 lead. Dickey started the run by scoring four straight before Smith hit a corner 3-pointer with 4:21 remaining.
The Spartans were able to maintain their lead as senior guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) shook off a tough night shooting and scored on consecutive possessions to keep the Keydets at bay. UNCG did just enough at the free throw line down the stretch and got a couple of key offensive rebounds to limit the Keydets’ chances in the final two minutes.
-- UNCG --