GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team shook off a slow start Wednesday night to win its third-straight game as the Spartans stepped up on defense to down in-state foe UNCW 71-58 at the Greensboro Coliseum. The victory improves the Spartans to 7-3 on the season and runs their winning streak to three-straight heading into Saturday afternoon’s game at N.C. State at noon in Raleigh.
“Defense is what we are trying to create our identity on,” head coach Wes Miller said. “I am not happy yet with where we are defensively, but we have had some good stretches were we play good possession-to-possession basketball. I thought our second unit really jump-started the team. They picked up the energy level and got us going after a slow start. The depth of our team played a big factor against a very good UNCW team.”
The Spartans, who entered the game fifth in the nation in scoring defense at 59.0 points per game, held UNCW to its lowest scoring total of the season at 58 points. UNCG’s defense limited the Seahawks to just 32.8 percent (20-of-61) shooting from the field and only 28.6 percent (4-of-14) from 3-point land. The Spartans forced UNCW into 17 turnovers and turned those miscues into 22 points as they registered 12 steals.
UNCG had 10 different players score in the balanced attack, including three in double figures. Junior guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) led the way with 19 points as he was 5-of-8 from 3-point land, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the second half. Senior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) added 15 points and six rebounds as he hit three 3-pointers.
Freshman guard Isaiah Miller (Covington, Ga./Newton) posted his third-straight game of double figures scoring with 10 points in 14 minutes off the bench. Sophomore forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) added a team-high 10 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals in 25 minutes of play to anchor the Spartans on the defensive end. Senior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) added seven points and eight rebounds.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 37.9 percent (25-of-66) from the field and 31 percent (9-of-29) from 3-point land. UNCG out-scored the Seahawks 26-20 in the paint despite a 22-point, 17-rebound effort for UNCW forward Devontae Cacok. Ty Taylor added 16 points and 10 rebounds but not other Seahawk had more than eight points and only four players scored more than two on the night.
UNCW started the game fast, opening on a 14-5 run at the 13:28 mark. The Seahawks hit their first two 3-pointers, notching one apiece from Taylor and Jordon Talley but would go just 2-of-12 the rest of the way. Cacok will cap the early run with a dunk off an offensive rebound.
The Spartans settled in and started the chip away at the deficit and turn up the heat on defense. UNCG record a 10-2 run to tie the game at 32-32 with 1:47 remaining as it forced UNCW into eight-straight misses from the field. Miller was the catalyst, scoring six points in the run, including an old-fashioned 3-point play as he overpowered a UNCW defender to complete the play. UNCW would take a 33-32 lead into the locker room as Taylor hit one of two from the line in the closing minute.
UNCG turned the tables on the Seahawks in the second half opening up on a 16-4 run to take a 48-37 lead and force UNCW into a timeout. Kuiper gave UNCG its first lead with a basket in the paint before Alonso started to heat up. He hit three 3-pointers in the run while Smith added a fourth as the Spartans flipped the game in a span of 3:54 on their way to out-scoring UNCW 39-25 in the second half.
Each time UNCW tried to make a run throughout the second half, the Spartans had an answer and maintain the lead around double figures for most of the final 16 minutes. Cacok narrowed the gap to 52-45 with 9:00 remaining but Smith nailed a 3-pointer to extend the lead back to 10. Cacok again trimmed the lead to single digit at 5:33 at 61-53 but this time Alonso nailed a 3-pointer to take the lead back to double figures where it would stay the remainder of the game.
The victory improved the Spartans to 6-0 at home this season, including a 4-0 mark at the Greensboro Coliseum. UNCG is 31-8 (79.5%) at home over the last three seasons. Additionally, the win raised the Spartans’ record to 3-1 against in-state foes this year with their next two games coming in the same fashion against N.C. State Saturday and UNC Asheville Tuesday at home.
-- UNCG --