GREENSBORO, N.C. – For the second-straight season, the UNCG men’s basketball team can call itself Southern Conference Champions and this year the Spartans are outright titleholders after posting an 88-75 victory over Samford Sunday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum in the regular season finale. The victory secures the No. 1 seed for the Spartans in the upcoming SoCon Tournament and also assures UNCG of the league’s automatic bid in the NIT.
The SoCon regular season title is the second overall SoCon title all-time for UNCG and the fourth title in SoCon play as the Spartans also won two North Division championships in 2001-02 and 2011-12. The Spartans are the first team in the SoCon to win consecutive regular season title since Davidson accomplished the feat in 2012-13 ad 2013-14.
The victory improves the Spartans to 24-7 overall on the year and 15-3 in SoCon play. The 24 wins are the second-most all-time in program history, trailing only the 25 wins from last year’s team. Additionally, UNCG won its program-record 15th game in SoCon play, surpassing last season’s 14-win season.
The Spartans earned the outright overall title after ETSU dropped its third-straight game, falling Sunday at home to Furman. UNCG will be the top seed in the SoCon Tournament for the second-straight year and earned a bye in the first round. The Spartans open SoCon Tournament play next Saturday in Asheville, facing the winner of No. 8 The Citadel vs. No. 9 VMI. Game time is set for noon at the U.S. Cellular Center.
The Spartans also closed out the regular season posting a 16-1 home record, including a 9-0 mark in SoCon play. UNCG is the only team in the SoCon to go undefeated at home this season. The 16 home wins are also a program-record, surpassing last year’s 13-win mark.
Senior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) paced five Spartans in double figures and turned in a career-high performance on his senior day. Smith scored a career-best 26 points in the victory while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out two assists in 30 minutes. Smith connected on 7-of-13 from 3-point land, accounting for over half of the Spartans’ 3-pointers.
Sophomore forward Kyrin Galloway (Milton, Ga./Milton) came off the bench and scored a career-high 15 points in 17 minutes of play. Galloway scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, finishing the day shooting 6-of-7 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free throw line while also grabbing five rebounds.
Junior guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) added 14 points and four assists in the win, hitting a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Alonso connected on two 3-pointers, breaking his UNCG single-season record for made 3-pointers (102) as he now has 104 makes on the year.
Senior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) added 10 points and five rebounds in his senior day, connecting on 4-of-9 from the field including two 3-pointers. Freshman guard Isaiah Miller (Covington, Ga./Newton) added 10 points, marking the eight time in the last 12 games he has scored in double figures.
UNCG connected on 50 percent (32-of-64) from the field and 43.3 percent (13-of-30) from 3-point land in the win while limiting the Bulldogs to 48 percent (24-of-50) shooting from the field and 8-of-21 (38.1%) from deep. The Spartans dominated play on the glass, out-rebounded Samford by a 36-21 margin, including 15 on the offensive glass. UNCG also dished out 20 assists with six players posting two or more helpers. Eric Adams led the Bulldogs with 24 points and seven rebounds while Demetrius Denzel-Dyson scored 15 points.
The Spartans dominated play from the beginning, jumping out to a 25-8 lead just under 10 minutes into the game. Smith was hot from the start, hitting 4 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes while senior Justin Jordan (Davidson, N.C./Milwaukee) scored an early basket and Alonso capped the run with a 3-pointer. UNCG would add a 10-0 run later in the second half, taking a 45-18 lead with 1:43 remaining in the half. Alonso and sophomore Malik Massey (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) hit from the outside during the run while Miller scored off a drive.
The Spartans finished the first half with a 47-22 lead as they connected on 56.3 percent (18-of-32) from the field and 56.3 percent (9-of-16) from 3-point land. UNCG held Samford to just 30.8 percent (8-of-26) shooting overall and 2-of-8 (25%) from distance in the opening 20 minutes. The Spartans have out-scored Samford 100-52 in the first half of the two meetings this season.
Samford came out of the break and started to hit shots, posting a 14-3 run to narrow the gap to 50-36 with 16:20 remaining. Adams scored six points in the run while Denzel-Dyson and Alex Thompson each hit 3-pointers. The Spartans bent but didn’t break as Smith stopped the run with a 3-pointer and later when Samford narrowed the gap to 13 points, Galloway connected from distance to stifle the momentum.
UNCG would push its lead back to 20 at 79-59 with 3:50 remaining as sophomore James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) scored four points in quick succession. The Bulldogs slowly chipped away at the UNCG advantage, hitting three 3-pointers in the final four minutes but the Spartans converted at the free throw line to seal the win and the conference championship.
-- UNCG --