Menís Basketball Stuns Defending Champion Chattanooga In Come From Behind Fashion
GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team found itself trailing defending Southern Conference champion and preseason favorite Chattanooga by 12 points late in the first half before the Spartans turned up play on both ends of the court to rally for a thrilling 73-68 victory over the visiting Mocs Monday night at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Spartans out-scored Chattanooga 49-32 over the final 22:52 of the game, including a 26-6 run, to improve to 11-5 overall and 2-1 in SoCon play.
“I am so proud of our guys for battling back tonight,” head coach Wes Miller said. “We showed a lot of character rallying from 12-down and earning this victory on the defensive end of the floor. We always say we want to get better every day we are on the floor and tonight we took that to heart. We got better as a team tonight and we need to continue to put in the work each day moving forward.”
The victory marked the second-straight win for the Spartans over the Mocs as they posted a 73-60 victory on the road last year, snapping Chattanooga’s 19-game home winning streak. The Spartans will look to build off the momentum from tonight as they wrap up a three-game home stretch Saturday evening when it hosts rival Western Carolina for a 5 p.m. tip-off at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Sophomore guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) was the catalyst in the victory, scoring a career-high 26 points in 30 minutes of action. Alonso connected on 8-of-14 from the field, including three 3-pointers, while hitting a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line.
Alonso’s play helped the Spartans shot 44.1 percent (26-of-59) from the field and 36.8 percent (7-of-19) from 3-point land. UNCG was also strong from the free throw line hitting 14-of-17 (82.4%), including its last six from the line in the final minute to ice the game. Sophomore guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) scored 11 points off the bench as he was 5-of-5 from the field in 23 minutes of action. Junior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) chipped in 10 points and six rebounds in the victory.
Chattanooga fell to 10-4 and 1-1 in SoCon play with the loss as the Mocs entered the game ranked No. 74 in the latest NCAA RPI rankings. Chattanooga connected on just 39.0 percent (23-of-59) from the field and 22.2 percent (4-of-18) from deep. The Mocs particularly struggled in the second half hitting just 28.1 percent (9-of-32) from the field and 11.1 percent (1-of-9) from deep. Justin Tuoyo posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds while Makinde London added 15 points off the bench.
The Spartans started strong against the Mocs, holding an early 13-10 lead with just over eight minutes into the game. Troy scored five points in the early going, including a 3-pointer in the corner off an assist from redshirt freshman forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God).
The teams traded baskets with the Spartans taking a 20-18 lead when senior guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) scored off a drive. Chattanooga took the momentum back with an 18-4 run to take a 36-24 lead. Tre McLean started the run with back-to-back 3-pointers while Makinde London scored six points during the spurt.
The Spartans responded and closed the first half on an 8-2 run to head into the locker room trailing 38-32. Junior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) hit back-to-back 3-pointers while Baldwin scored off a drive to make it a 6-point contest.
The Spartans came out of the halftime break a different team as they posted an 18-4 run to swing a six-point deficit into an 8-point lead in just over six minutes of play. Alonso was the key cog in the attack during the run, as Chattanooga did not have an answer defensively for him as he scored 10 points during the stretch, including a pair of 3-pointers. Kuiper had two baskets in the run and Troy capped off the rally with a basket off a drive.
Chattanooga kept coming though as it scored five straight to make it a one-possession game at 50-47 but the Spartans had an answer. Senior center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) had a big basket in the paint and Kuiper nailed a key 3-pointer to give the Spartans a cushion with 11:34 remaining at 55-47.
The teams would trade mini-runs the rest of the second half with Chattanooga again pulling within three at 61-58 with 6:08 remaining when London scored in the paint. Alonso stepped up once again, scoring five straight points, including three from the free throw line to extend the lead back to eight at 66-58.
The Mocs again made a push and pulled within 67-64 with 2:20 remaining on a pair of free throws. After Alonso hit two from the charity stripe, Tuoyo and Casey Jones scored four straight from the free throw line to make it a one-point game at 69-68 with 1:12 remaining.
The Spartans worked the clock down and Baldwin missed a runner, but Kuiper was able to force a jump ball on the rebound to retain possession. Alonso was fouled by Jones on the ensuing possession and hit both free throws to make it a 71-68 game with 43.4 seconds remaining.
Chattanooga took a long 3-pointer that was off the mark, but the Mocs got a key offensive rebound to give them life. The Spartans’ defense stepped up big as it forced a travel call on Jones for a huge turnover with 9.4 seconds remaining. Baldwin was quickly fouled and calmly hit both free throws with 8.1 seconds remaining to seal the victory over the Mocs.
White finished the night with seven points and five rebounds before fouling out but had some key baskets in the second half. Smith added seven points, including two 3-pointers in the first half that changed the momentum for the Spartans.
-- UNCG --