GREENSBORO, N.C. – For the second-straight season, the UNCG men’s basketball team heads into the final game of the regular season with a chance to win a Southern Conference regular season championship after the Spartans posted a dominating 72-51 victory over visiting Chattanooga Friday night in front of 5,062 fans at the Greensboro Coliseum.
The victory improves the Spartans to 23-7 overall and into a first place tie with ETSU in the SoCon with a 14-3 league record after ETSU lost to Wofford Friday. The Spartans can clinch a share of the regular season title with a win in the season finale against Samford Sunday at 4 p.m. UNCG, which is guaranteed a top-two seed in the SoCon Tournament, can earn the No. 1 seed with a win due to holding the tiebreaker over the Bucs. ETSU closes out the regular season at home against Furman while Mercer is on the road at Wofford with both games slated for a 2 p.m. tip-off.
The win gives the Spartans 23 on the season, tied for second-most wins in a single season in UNCG history with the 1994-95 team. The Spartans only trail last season’s 25-win team for most in program history. Additionally, UNCG tied its program-record with 14 SoCon wins, matching last year’s total (14-4). UNCG won its program-record 15th home game, improving to 15-1 on the year at home and 8-0 in SoCon play – the only league team with an unblemished home mark.
The Spartans’ dominating performance was led by the nation’s ninth-best scoring defense as UNCG limited Chattanooga to 51 points, the Mocs’ lowest scoring output in SoCon play this year. Chattanooga connected on just 37.7 percent (20-of-53) from the field and hit just 6-of-15 (40%) from 3-point land. UNCG forced the Mocs into 18 turnovers while blocking nine shots and winning the rebounding battle by a 37-32 margin.
Six different Spartans scored seven or more points in the win with freshman guard Isaiah Miller (Covington, Ga./Newton) and senior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) leading the way with 14 points each. Miller came off the bench and hit 7-of-11 from the field in 24 minutes while also handing out three of the Spartans’ 15 assists. Smith scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 23 minutes of play, hitting 4-of-10 from 3-point land.
Sophomore forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) added 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots while only having to play 19 minutes. Dickey connected on 5-of-6 from the field as UNCG out-scored Chattanooga 38-26 in the paint. Junior guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) hit two 3-pointers in the win giving him 102 on the season, matching his UNCG single-season record set last season. Additionally, Alonso has 289 career 3-pointers, only 20 shy of the UNCG career record of 309 held by Scott Hartzell.
The Spartans broke open the game after a slow start and posted a 21-4 run in the first half taking a 29-14 lead with 46 seconds remaining in the half. Miller was the offensive catalyst with eight points in the run while senior forward Garrett Collins (Asheville, N.C./Fishburne Military Academy) scored five points, including an old-fashioned 3-point play. The Spartans defensively forced Chattanooga into six turnovers during the run and just 2-of-13 shooting during a span of 11:22 on the clock.
The Spartans remained comfortably in the lead in the second half. Each time Chattanooga pulled within 15 points, the Spartans ran off a small run to stretch the lead back out to 20 or more points. Dickey led the way with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting in the second half while also blocking four shots. Junior guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) scored eight points in the second half, hitting 3-of-4 from the field and both of his 3-pointers.
Troy finished with eight points and four assists without posting a turnover in the win. Sophomore Kyrin Galloway (Milton, Ga./Milton) scored seven points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots in 23 minutes off the bench. Senior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) tied for the team-lead with seven rebounds while adding four points. Joshua Phillips led the Mocs with 17 points and 10 rebounds while Makale Forman added 15 points in the loss.
The Spartans close out the regular season Sunday afternoon when they host Samford. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum and is the final game of the league’s regular season schedule.
-- UNCG --