GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team enjoyed a rare Sunday matinee game at the Greensboro Coliseum as the Spartans connected on a season-high 15 3-pointers on their way to a dominating 84-49 victory over visiting Southern Conference foe Furman. The victory keeps the Spartans hopes alive for the sixth and final bye in the upcoming SoCon Tournament as they trail VMI by two games with two to play, but hold the tiebreaker against the Keydets courtesy of the season series sweep.
“I thought we played really well today,” head coach Wes Miller said. “It certainly got us going today to see the ball go in early. R.J.’s threes really gave us confidence offensively and I think in stretches we really put it together too. It was good to see our guys rewarded for their hard work and have some fun today.”
The Spartans’ 35-point victory over the Paladins it he largest against an NCAA Division I team this year and the largest SoCon victory in UNCG history, surpassing a 33-point victory by UNCG over Samford December 5, 2009. The Spartans connected on a season-high 15-of-25 (60%) from 3-point land in the victory as seven different players connected from the outside. The 15 3-pointers surpasses the previous season-high of 14 set at Indiana in November when UNCG connected on 60.9 percent.
“I thought we shot it exceptionally today,” Miller added. “I think the guys are starting to get a little more confidence and we shared the ball better, which got us better looks. That may be the biggest difference today – we were able to make that extra pass and go inside-out for shots, which gave us some great looks.”
Redshirt sophomore center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) was the catalyst from the outside as the big man hit four straight 3-pointers in the first half on his way to a game-high 18 points off the bench. White fell just shy of a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes of action as he was 7-of-11 from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
Senior guard Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) added 15 points as he was 5-of-6 from 3-point land in the victory. Paulos is now just six points shy of becoming the 21st member of the 1,000-point club at UNCG with 994 points in his career. Junior forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh), who became the 20th member of the 1,000-point club earlier this season, added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Sophomore guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) added 11 points and five assists in 27 minutes of play as he was 5-of-7 from the field before fouling out. Freshman Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) chipped in 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers while sophomore guard Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) dished out a game-high seven assists to go along with six points.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 51.7 percent (31-of-60) from the field and dished out 17 assists. UNCG dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Paladins by a 40-26 margin. The Spartans were strong defensively as well, holding Furman to 37 percent (17-of-46) shooting from the field and 15.8 percent (3-of-19) from long range. Stephen Croone led the Paladins with 15 points while Daniel Fowler added 10 points.
Furman (8-20, 4-12 SoCon) started the game strong as its zone defense held the Spartans in check early, taking a 10-6. Devin Sibley scored five early while Stephen Croone also scored five early.
The Spartans answered back with eight straight points in their way to a 14-4 run taking a 20-14 lead as they started to heat up from the outside. White hit four straight 3-pointers to ignite the run getting the Greensboro Coliseum crowd going on the Sunday matinee.
After a pair of baskets from Furman, the Spartans hit two more 3-pointers as Baldwin and Paulos connected from deep for a 29-19 lead. The Spartans kept coming and scored 12 straight to take a 41-20 lead with 1:36 remaining in the half. Paulos hit a pair of 3-pointers during the stretch while Baldwin capped it with a drive against the zone. Furman scored the last five points of the half to cut the Spartans’ lead to 41-25 at the break.
UNCG connected on 55.2 percent (16-of-29) from the field and hit 9-of-13 (69.2%) from 3-point land in the first 20 minutes. White led the way with 14 points in 11 minutes off the bench while Paulos added nine points and Baldwin chipped in seven points. UNCG held a 21-12 edge on the glass and had 10 assists in the first 20 minutes. Furman connected on 29.6 percent (8-of-27) from the field and 21.4 percent (3-of-14) from long range as Croone led with 9 points, five of which came from the free throw line.
The Spartans kept the pressure on the Paladins as they opened the second half on a 10-3 run to take a 51-28 lead with just under four minutes. Smith started the scoring in the second half as he attacked the rim and was fouled before hitting a pair of free throws. Junior guard Asad Lamot (Mebane, N.C./Lees-McRae) scored four points in the run, including a 3-pointer in the corner, which forced another Furman timeout.
The Paladins were able to cut into the lead a little, trimming it to 20 at 57-37, but the Spartans put any doubt out of reach with a 13-2 run to take a 70-39 lead with 6:43 remaining. Baldwin got things going with four points in transition while Locked capped it with back-to-back baskets.
The Spartans return to action Thursday night as they continue their three-game home stretch to end the regular season when they welcome in Samford. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.