BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – After a first half that went almost entirely Samford’s way, it looked like UNC Greensboro men’s basketball was going to begin conference play with a loss. But basketball is a game of two halves, and the Spartans adjusted properly in the final 20 minutes of the game to pull away with an 83-75 victory over the Bulldogs.
Not only have the Spartans now won five games in a row, this year’s team has tied the 1994-95 squad for the best start in program history at 12-2.
“We had a little more fire,” said Head Coach Wes Miller, referring to his team’s second half effort. “I thought we were going to have a huge fire to compete from the jump because we had two great practices. We were really locked in. …But in the second half, our fire to compete and will to compete was a little better. It wasn’t perfect, not by any means, but it was a pretty gutsy effort by our team there in the second half.”
In the first half, the Spartans struggled to contain Samford’s offense as the Bulldogs were 62 percent from the field, knocking down 16-of-26 attempts while UNCG was 36 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs spent most of the first half possessing the lead, as Samford went up 24-11 with 12:45 remaining as Brandon Allen hit from downtown.
The lead would grow to as much as 14 in the half before the Spartans went into halftime with a 48-36 deficit after junior forward Eric Hamilton beat the buzzer.
Offensively, senior guard Francis Alonso led the Spartans with 13 points, seven of which were from the free throw line. Sophomore guard Isaiah Miller also added eight, as UNCG’s guards combined for 28 of the Spartans’ 36 points in the first half.
The Spartans, however, came out of the gates attacking in the second half, going on a 5-0 run to cut their deficit to just seven.
Then will 11:20 remaining, UNCG took its first lead of the game when Alonso hit a pair of free throws. While Samford took back the lead with 7:56 remaining, the Spartans remained in the thick of things in the waning minutes.
After a ninth tied score with 1:17 remaining, UNCG ended the game on an 8-0 run before closing out the SoCon opener in victorious fashion.
In the victory, Alonso, Miller and fellow guard Kaleb Hunter combined for 64 points.
Alonso also set the record for most free throws attempted (21) and free throws made (17).
UNCG will return to conference play next Saturday when the Spartans host Chattanooga at the Greensboro Coliseum in the team’s final game of the calendar year.
Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m EST.
News And Notes
--As noted earlier, this is only the second time in program history that the Spartans have started a season 12-2. The 1994-95 squad started 12-2 en route to a 23-6 overall record and a Big South regular season title.
--This year’s team has now already put together two five-game winning streaks on the season. After falling to then-No. 23 LSU on Nov. 9, the Spartans strung together six straight wins between Nov. 13-27. While the Spartans dropped a Dec. 1 decision to then-No. 10 Kentucky, they have now won five straight games.
--This is the third straight season that the Spartans have won their conference opener, as they knocked off The Citadel in 2016 before getting past Wofford.
--The victory was the 124th career win for Miller, tying him for the most victories by a head coach in program history.
--UNCG is now 13-10 against Samford all-time.
--UNCG has won it’s last four games against Samford.
--UNCG has won its last four appearances in the Pete Hanna Center.
--Alonso once again reached double-digits in scoring on Saturday, as the senior guard has now scored at least 10 points in UNCG’s last 15 games dating back to the team’s NCAA Tournament appearance against Gonzaga.
--Alonso also dropped 30 points for the first time this season.
--Freshmen forwards Mohammad Abdulsalam and Angelo Allgeri made their SoCon debuts.
-- UNCG –