JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The UNCG men’s basketball team saw its three-game winning streak come to an end and dropped its first Southern Conference game of the year as the Spartans suffered a 68-58 loss at ETSU Thursday night at Freedom Hall. The Spartans fall to 11-5 on the season and 2-1 in SoCon play while the Bucs improve to 13-4 overall and 4-0 in league play, running their winning streak to seven-straight games.
The Spartans connected on only 33.3 percent (21-of-63) from the field and just 29.2 percent (7-of-24) from 3-point land in the loss. UNCG kept itself in the game by grabbing 18 offensive rebounds and forcing the Bucs into 14 turnovers in the loss. ETSU finished the game shooting 52.2 percent (24-of-46) from the field and hit 17-of-26 (65.4%) from the free throw line in the victory.
Senior guard Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) led three Spartans in double figures with 11 points and nine rebounds as he hit 2-of-6 from 3-point land. Junior guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) was held to 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting as he played through foul trouble for most of the night. Sophomore forward Kyrin Galloway (Milton, Ga./Milton) added 10 points off the bench, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Jalan McCloud led ETSU with 15 points as four different Bucs scored in double figures. Mladen Armus scored 13 points in 19 minutes off the bench as he was 5-of-6 from the field while Desonta Bradford finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
The teams came out of the gate and went back-and-forth for most of the first half. Freshman guard Isaiah Miller (Covington, Ga./Newton) provided a spark off the bench for the Spartans, scoring six-straight points at one moment in the first half as UNCG trailed 15-14 with 11:15 remaining. The game was tied four times and the lead changed hands six times in the first half.
The Spartans took a 27-24 lead with 1:59 remaining after four-straight points as Galloway and sophomore Malik Massey (Charlotte, N.C./New Hampton Prep) scored on consecutive possessions in the paint. ETSU scored the final four points of the half, including a basket by Bradford with 5.1 seconds remaining to send the Bucs into the locker room with a 27-26 lead.
The Spartans opened the second half on a 10-4 run, including eight-straight points to take a 37-32 lead and force ETSU into a timeout. Alonso and Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite the offense as the Spartans held their biggest lead of the night.
ETSU came back and went on an 18-5 run to take a 50-42 lead with 9:03 remaining. Armus scored four points in the run while Jermaine Long scored four at the free throw line. David Burrell hit a 3-pointer that gave ETSU the lead back for good.
The Spartans would pull back within five at 56-51 with 5:30 remaining when Smith hit another 3-pointer, scoring five-straight points in a 36 second span. The Bucs responded with five consecutive points from McCloud to extend the lead back to double figures and maintained the lead down the stretch pulling out the victory.
The loss snapped the Spartans’ three-game road winning streak as well and made UNCG 2-2 all-time in four games at Freedom Hall since ETSU returned to the league. Additionally, the Spartans’ 58 points scored is their second-lowest point total of the season, trailing only the 48-point output against Virginia in the season opener.
The Spartans look to bounce back from their loss Saturday night as they close out their three-game road swing in Cullowhee, N.C., with a meeting against Western Carolina. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Ramsey Center and will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the ESPN App.
-- UNCG --