Potts' Career-High Leads Stunning Comeback Win Over Appalachian State
GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG sophomore guard Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) scored a career-high 26 points Thursday night to spark the Spartans’ come-from-behind 66-61 victory over Southern Conference and in-state rival Appalachian State at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Spartans trailed by 18 points with 18:07 left in the game before out-scoring the Mountaineers 43-20 down the stretch for their largest rally of the season.
“My guys really responded in the second half,” head coach Wes Miller said. “I was really hard on them at halftime and really challenged them to respond. I think they responded to adversity and to each other. They found a way to sit down together and fight. The guys in this program are here to build a championship mentality and we have to find a way to take the passion we showed in the final 18 minutes and bring it all 40 minutes we are on the floor.”
Potts was the catalyst off the bench, scoring a career-high 26 points in 25 minutes of play, including 20 second half points in 14 minutes of action. He connected on a career-high 8-of-13 from three-point land in the victory, while also hitting both free throws. He scored 18 points in a span of 5:21 of the second half as he hit six consecutive three-pointers to bring UNCG back from a 44-30 deficit to a 56-55 lead.
“I just wanted to help my team in anyway, but tonight my shots were falling tonight,” Potts said. “I started making shots and my teammates gave me confidence by setting screens and getting me great looks. The basket definitely started looking big for me and I was hunting my shot there for a while, but my teammates did a great job screening and finding me in rhythm.”
Junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) notched his ninth double-double of the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Cain scored 11 of his points in the second half as he finished the night shooting 6-of-13 from the field. Freshman Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) added 10 points and seven rebounds while redshirt sophomore center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) added six points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes off the bench.
UNCG finished the game shooting 41.4 percent (24-of-58) from the field and 45 percent (9-of-20) from long range in the victory. It was a tale of two halves though as the Spartans only hit 25 percent (7-of-28) from the field in the first 20 minutes and 56.7 percent (17-of-30) in the second half.
Additionally, the Spartans turned up their defensive effort in the second half limiting the Mountaineers to 31.4 percent (11-of-35) shooting from the field and 25 percent (3-of-12) from long range in the final 20 minutes. UNCG also won the rebounding battle in the second half, out-muscling ASU by a 24-17 margin on the glass down the stretch.
The Spartans (11-12, 4-4 SoCon) trailed 41-23 early in the second half as the Mountaineers opened the second half much like the first with a 7-2 run. UNCG finally had its fire lit at that point, putting together a quick 7-0 run led by Cain. He scored five straight points as he hit a three-pointer, then stole the ball and scored in transition before White scored in the paint to make it a 41-30 contest.
Appalachian State (6-15, 2-5 SoCon) extended the lead back to 14 points at 44-30 when Chris Burgess hit a three-pointer before the Spartans turned in their game-changing run. UNCG battled back and responded with a 26-11 run that wiped out the Appalachian State lead and gave the Spartans their first lead since the opening minute at 56-55.
Cain started the run with a monster dunk before Potts took over. He hit three-pointers on three consecutive possessions to bring the deficit into single digits at 49-41 with 12:52 remaining. Freshman Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) scored in a drive to the basket and Saddler converted an old-fashioned three-point play to continue the UNCG surge.
The Spartans came back to Potts as he hit three more three-pointers in the next four possessions for UNCG, the last giving the Spartans a 56-55 lead with 8:38 remaining in the game. The teams traded baskets back-and-forth over the next three minutes until Cain hit a jumper for a 60-59 lead, a lead UNCG would not relinquish the remainder of the game.
The two teams buckled down on defense as there was only one field goal made in a span of 3:48. Baldwin had the pivotal basket as he drove down the lane and scored for a 62-59 lead. Cain and Ty Toney traded baskets with just over a minute remaining to keep the game a one-possession contest. Burgess got a potential game-tying three-pointer off with 14 seconds remaining, but it was well wide and Cain grabbed the defensive rebound before quickly getting the ball in Potts’ hands. He calmly sank both from the charity stripe to end any doubt and give the Spartans a 66-61 victory.
The victory gave the Spartans a regular season-series sweep over the Mountaineers in their final year in the SoCon after posting an almost identical score in Boone, winning 66-60 earlier in January. The season sweep is the first for the Spartans over Appalachian State since the 2004-05 season.
Appalachian State was led by Tommy Spagnolo who posted a double-double in the loss with 15 points and a game-high 17 rebounds. Spagnolo was 6-of-12 from the field and 3-of-5 from the free throw line in 35 minutes of action. Frank Eaves added 10 points, all of which came in the first half off the bench,
The Spartans scored the first basket of the game only to see Appalachian State respond with eight straight to take a 8-2 lead. UNCG connected on just one of its first 14 shots from the field in the early drought. The Spartans started to settle in and turned in a 9-3 run to tie the game at 13-13. Saddler scored four of his six first half points in the run to settle the Spartans into the contest.
After the Spartans tied the game once against at 16-16, Appalachian State closed the half on an 18-5 run to take a 34-21 lead into the locker room. UNCG connected on just 25 percent (7-of-28) from the field, 22.2 percent (2-of-9) from three-point land and 50 percent (5-of-10) from the free throw line in the opening half. The Spartans, who entered the game as the top rebounding team in the conference, trailed on the glass as well in the half by a 28-16 margin. Appalachian State connected on 37.5 percent (12-of-32) from the field and hit 4-of-12 (33.3%) from long range in the opening half.
The Spartans continue their home week at the Greensboro Coliseum Saturday afternoon as they host Georgia Southern. Game time is set for 5 p.m. in the SoCon battle.
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