ASHEVILLE, N.C. – For the third straight season, UNC Greensboro men’s basketball is heading to the Championship Game of the Ingles Southern Conference Tournament presented by General Shale, as the Spartans on Sunday night were fueled by yet another frantic comeback in a 66-62 victory over Furman.
The No. 2 seed UNCG will face the No. 1 seed Wofford on Monday night for a nationally-televised game on ESPN. The contest will tip at 7:02 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Center with the winner earning the SoCon’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the Spartans falling behind by as much as nine early in the second half when UNCG missed its first 10 shots in the frame, the defending SoCon Tournament champions fought back late. After UNCG was able to pull back even with 3:12 remaining when junior forward Kyrin Galloway hit a corner three pointer, the Spartans outscored the Paladins 8-2 over the final two minutes of the game before earning a hard-fought victory over an opponent that spent three weeks in the AP Top 25 this season.
“I knew that every time we played them was going to be an absolute war. It was that way all three games. I can’t express how proud I am of my team,” said Head Coach Wes Miller. “I’ve got a special group of kids that refuse to give in. I’m really proud of them, but we’re not going to be in celebration mode tonight. We have one more game while we’re up here in Asheville. This is what we’ve worked for, this moment.”
In the first half, UNCG had a balanced scoring attack with nine different players scoring at least two points with and senior guard Francis Alonso leading the way with five points apiece. Junior forward James Dickey, meanwhile, grabbed a game-high eight rebounds in the opening frame including four on the offensive side.
After Galloway scored the game’s opening basket, UNCG led for more than 15 minutes of the action before halftime with its largest lead coming by six points. But UNCG went cold from the field early in the second half, as the Spartans missed their first 10 attempts before redshirt freshman guard Kaleb Hunter drained a three with 14:11 remaining.
While Hunter would nail a second three just seconds later, Furman responded both times with threes of their own. The Paladins once again would extend their lead to nine point with 12 minutes remaining before UNCG began to chop down the deficit.
During a minute-span with eight minutes remaining, the Spartans cut Furman’s seven-point lead down to one with three straight layups from senior guard Demetrius Troy, junior forward Eric Hamilton and sophomore guard Isaiah Miller.
Although Furman would push its lead back to five with 4:51 left, UNCG clawed its way back into contention before scoring the four-point victory to earn a spot in the SoCon Tournament Championship game where UNCG will face a Wofford team they lost to twice this season.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for how good they are,” Miller said of Wofford. “I know this will be a big-time challenge, but I have a bunch of kids who love to compete, so we’re not going to back down from it.”
News And Notes
--With the victory, this year’s team has set a new program record for victories in a season (28).
--The Spartans are now 22-19 all-time in the SoCon Tournament.
--This is the third straight season in which the Spartans will play in the conference title game. Each of the past two years, however, UNCG faced ETSU.
--The Spartans this season are now 8-0 in games decided by five points or less this season.
--Alonso made his 137th career appearance, which is the second-most in program history. Alonso trails only RJ White (140) for games played in program history.
--Senior guard Demetrius Troy made his 129th career appearance, which is the fourth-most in program history. Troy needs one more appearance to tie former teammate Kayel Locke (130) for the third-most games played in school history.
--Alonso scored in double digits for the 103rd time in his career.
--Sophomore guard Isaiah Miller now has 99 steals on the season. The Covington, Ga., native needs just one more steal to become the first player in program history with 100 steals in a single season.
-- UNCG –