RALEIGH, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team found itself trailing by as many as 14 points early in the first half but the Spartans showed their heart and battled back to stun Atlantic Coast Conference foe N.C. State Saturday afternoon a PNC Arena. The Spartans turned in a game-changing 41-12 run stretching from the first half to the start of the second half to win their fourth-straight game to improve to 8-3 on the year.
“This is a big win for our school and our program,” head coach Wes Miller said. “Our program is in the shadow of the ACC schools in North Carolina so for our team to come on the road and get a win against a good N.C. State team is impressive. I am so happy for our guys who put in the hard work today and the effort they played with, especially on the defensive end.”
The victory marks the third win all-time in program history for the Spartans against an ACC school and the first against one of the four ACC teams in from North Carolina. The win is the first against the league since 2013 when UNCG defeated Virginia Tech on the road. The win improved the Spartans to 4-1 this season against teams from North Carolina and marked their third-straight win over in-state foes.
“We weren’t happy with our effort at the start of the game but our guys were able to stay calm and turned up the intensity on the defensive end,” Miller said. “Our seniors played great today and I am happy they were rewarded with this win. This may have been the best game of Marvin (Smith’s) career, setting the tone for our team. Jordy (Kuiper) hit big shots for us, especially in the second half as N.C. State was making a run.”
Senior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) led three Spartans in double figures and seven players with at least six points in the victory. Smith posted his first double-double of the year and fifth of his career with 16 points and 10 rebounds, hitting 7-of-12 from the field including a pair of 3-pointers.
Junior guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) scored a team-high 17 points, dished out six assists and posted four steals in 31 minutes of play. Senior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) scored a career-high 14 points as he was 4-of-5 from 3-point land.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 51.7 percent (31-of-60) from the field and 50 percent (12-of-24) from 3-point land. UNCG out-rebounded the Wolfpack by a 34-28 margin and out-scoring them in the paint 34-32. The Spartans held N.C. State to 50 percent (25-of-50) shooting from the field and just 38.5 percent (10-of-26) in the second half. UNCG limited the Wolfpack to just 4-of-13 (30.8 percent) shooting from deep in the second half.
N.C. State (8-3) saw its three-game winning streak come to an end Saturday. Braxton Beverly led the way with 16 points in the loss while Lennard Freeman added 16 points and seven rebounds. Allerik Freeman scored a team-high 17 points but connected on just 4-of-13 from the field and committed five turnovers.
N.C. State opened the game on an 11-4 run after 3-pointers early on from Beverly and Freeman. The Wolfpack would extend their lead to as high as 14 at 31-17 with 8:21 left in the first half before UNCG turned the tables on the game.
The Spartans started to buckle down on defense and turned out an 18-4 run over a 6:08 span of the half to take a 35-34 lead with 2:13 remaining. Kuiper started the comeback with a 3-pointer before Smith nailed a deep ball for three of his seven points during the span. The Spartans’ biggest contribution came off the bench in the form of senior forward Garrett Collins (Asheville, N.C./Fishburne Military Academy). Collins hit a pair of 3-pointers in the run and helped spark the Spartans’ play on both ends of the floor.
N.C. State would take a 40-38 lead into the locker room but that lead was short-lived as the Spartans opened the second half on a 20-3 run to take a 58-43 lead with 12:51 remaining in the game. Smith scored five in the run, including the 3-pointer to start the spurt while Kuiper added five as well, hitting the 3-pointer to give UNCG the lead for good.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Alonso and junior guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) put the Spartans up by double figures with 14:52 remaining. Sophomore guard Malik Massey (Charlotte, N.C./New Hampton Prep) hit a jumped at the 12:51 mark to give the Spartans a 15-point lead and force a Wolfpack timeout.
N.C. State would try and mount a comeback but each time it made a run, UNCG seemed to find a big basket to answer. The Wolfpack pulled within nine at at the 5:06 mark but Kuiper nailed a 3-pointer to extend it back to double figures. Kuiper again had a huge 3-pointer with 2:27 remaining to pull the lead back out to 10 at 72-62, answering a Beverly 3-pointer.
The Spartans held a 75-64 lead with 1:08 left after Massey hit a pair of free throws. The Wolfpack kept coming and eventually pulled within three at 79-76 with 11 seconds left as Freeman hit three free throws. After the Spartans missed a pair of free throws with 9.1 seconds remaining, N.C. State had a chance to tie the game but the Spartans’ defense forced a turnover and Alonso iced the game with two free throws with 1.0 seconds remaining.
Troy finished with eight points in 24 minutes while also dishing out four assists and grabbing four rebounds. Freshman guard Isaiah Miller (Covington, Ga./Newton) added eight points off the bench in 13 minutes, providing a pair of highlight reel plays. Massey finished with six points and was 4-of-4 from the free throw line while Collins ended the day with his six points in seven first half minutes.
UNCG looks to continue its four-game winning streak Tuesday night when the Spartans host their fourth-straight in-state opponents when UNC Asheville comes to the Greensboro Coliseum. Game time is set for 7 p.m. and the Spartans are 6-0 at home this year.
-- UNCG --