GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team continues its three-game road swing Thursday night as the Spartans travel to Johnson City, Tenn., for a rematch of the 2017 Southern Conference Tournament Championship game when they battle ETSU. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Freedom Hall. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the ESPN App with Kasey Marler and Bruce Tranbarger on the call with links available at www.uncgpsartans.com. Additionally, the game will be radio streamed on TuneIn with Scott Pryzwansky on the call.
The game pits two of the top teams in the SoCon battling each other as UNCG enters with an 11-4 overall record and a 2-0 mark in league play. The Spartans have won three-straight and seven out of their last eight games, ranking No. 18 in the College Insiders Mid-Major Top 25 poll. ETSU enters the game with a 12-4 overall record and a 3-0 mark in SoCon play. The Bucs have won six-straight and 10 out of their last 11 games, entering the game ranked No. 5 in the most recent Mid-Major poll.
Thursday’s game marks the 26th meeting all-time between UNCG and ETSU. The Spartans trail the all-time series by a 15-10 margin but they are 3-4 against the Bucs the last three seasons since ETSU returned to the Southern Conference for the 2014-15 season. In fact, UNCG is 2-1 in Johnson City since ETSU joined the league -- one of just two teams in the SoCon to have a winning record at Freedom Hall over that span (Chattanooga, 2-1). Over the last seven meetings, the teams have been separated by just 24 total points will all seven of the games decided by six points or less and four of the games by three points or less. ETSU holds a slim 522-519 margin in points in the series since joining the league three seasons ago.
Last year, the Spartans posted an 83-79 victory in Johnson City and a 72-66 victory at the Greensboro Coliseum during the regular season. ETSU won the rubber match with a 79-74 victory over the Spartans in the championship game of the SoCon Tournament. The Spartans averaged 76.3 points per game, shooting 43.3 percent (74-of-171) from the field and 47.1 percent (32-of-68) from 3-point land. ETSU averaged 74.7 points per game against UNCG, shooting 47.2 percent (77-of-163) from the field and 35.7 percent (15-of-42) from deep.
Guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) averaged 25.0 points per game and shot 52.2 percent (12-of-23) from 3-point land and 83.3 percent (25-of-30) from the free throw line. Former Spartans R.J. White and Diante Baldwin averaged 19.0 and 13.3 points per game, respectively. T.J. Cromer averaged 13.7 points per game for ETSU against the Spartans while A.J. Merriweather average 12.7 points per game. Desonta Bradford is the highest returning scorer from the series for the Bucs, averaging 10.0 points per game last season.
UNCG enters Thursday’s game with an 11-4 overall record and a 2-0 mark in Southern Conference play. UNCG has posted three-straight road wins after losing its first three road games of the year. UNCG has not dropped a road game since Nov. 28 at Presbyterian with wins at Liberty, N.C. State and VMI. The Spartans are averaging 73.6 points per game while allowing 61.8 points per game against. UNCG is shooting 44.6 percent (394-of-883) from the field and 36.4 percent (151-of-415) from 3-point land. Opponents are shooting 41.4 percent (309-of-746) from the field and 30 percent (88-of-293) from deep this year.
Eight different Spartans are averaging at least 5.0 points per game this season. Alonso leads the team and ranks third in the SoCon in scoring at 18.4 points per game. He has connected on 57-of-125 (45.6%) from 3-point land and 88.2 percent (45-of-51) from the free throw line. Senior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) is second on the team in scoring at 10.9 points per game while grabbing 4.7 rebounds per game. Smith is second on the team with 28 made 3-pointers, connecting on 31.8 percent from deep.
Sophomore forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) is third on the team in scoring at 8.7 points per game and leads the team and conference in 8.6 rebounds per game. Dickey is shooting 50.5 percent (48-of-95) from the field and leads the team with 31 blocked shots. Freshman guard Isaiah Miller (Covington, Ga./Newton) is fourth on the team in scoring at 7.1 points per game and is shooting 52.8 percent (47-of-89) from the field. Junior guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) leads the team with 52 assists while adding 6.5 points per game. Troy is shooting 30.2 percent (19-of-63) from 3-point land. Senior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) is second on the team with 5.5 rebounds per game while adding 5.9 points per game.
ETSU enters Thursday’s game with a 12-4 overall record and a 3-0 mark in Southern Conference play. ETSU is 6-1 at home this year with its lone loss coming against Troy November 22. Thursday’s game marks the Bucs’ first home SoCon game of the year. ETSU is averaging 78.0 points per game while allowing 67.3 points per game against. The Bucs are shooting 47.5 percent (448-of-944) from the field and 34.2 percent (120-of-351) from 3-point land. ETSU has been strong from deep in league play, hitting 49.1 percent (28-of-57) over the last three games. Opponents are shooting 41.7 percent (380-of-912) from the field and 32.4 percent (120-of-370) from deep this season.
The Bucs have eight players averaging 5.0 points per better. Desonta Bradford leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game while also grabbing a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game. Bradford is second on the team with 52 assists and leads the team with 28 steals. He is shooting 32.8 percent (21-of-64) from 3-point land. Jalan McCloud is second on the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game and leads the team with 63 assists. McCloud has hit eight 3-pointers this year while shooting 74.1 percent (40-of-54) from the free throw line.
Devontavius Payne is third on the team in scoring at 9.4 points per game. Payne leads the team with 30 made 3-pointers, connecting on 34.9 percent. Peter Jurkin, the reining SoCon Player of the Week, averages 9.1 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game. Jurkin is shooting 57.3 percent (47-of-82) from the field and 88.6 percent (39-of-44) from the charity stripe. Bo Hodges adds 8.7 points per game and is shooting 62.8 percent (49-of-78) from the field.
-- UNCG --