Late surge lifts Spartans into SoCon Tournament semifinals
ASHEVILLE, N.C. –Trevis Simpson scored a game-high 17 points and UNCG closed the game with a 27-6 run as the Spartans downed Appalachian State, 65-55, in a Southern Conference Tournament quarterfinal game on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Center.
UNCG now advances to the semifinals where they will face either Wofford or Western Carolina, 6 p.m., Sunday. The Spartans, who won a tournament game for the third straight season, are in the semis for the first time since 2008.
Trailing 39-32 at halftime and 49-38 with 12:57 remaining, the Spartans (13-18) stormed back, getting key baskets from nearly the entire roster. Simpson converted a three-point play with 11:19 left to get UNCG within 49-41, and after layups by Aloysius Henry and Derrell Armstrong cut the deficit to 49-46, App State (13-18) stopped the bleeding when Isaac Butts' put-back basket made it 51-46.
Simpson pulled the Spartans to within 51-49 with a three-pointer, and David Williams tied it at 51-51 on a layup with 8:16 to go. A pair of free throws by ASU's Jamaal Trice gave the Mountaineers a 53-51 lead, but a short jumper by Kyle Randall knotted the game at 53-53, and Drew Parker gave UNCG a 56-53 lead with 5:25 remaining, its first advantage since midway through the first half.
A free throw by Williams gave UNCG a 57-53 lead, but a pair of freebies by ASU's Mike Neal pulled the Mountaineers to within 57-55 with 4:46 left. Parker converted a layup for UNCG on its next possession for a 59-55 advantage.
Parker extended the lead to 61-55 with a pair of free throws, and Williams and Simpson closed out the scoring with a pair of breakaway dunks as Appalachian State missed its final nine shots from the field.
After allowing the Mountaineers to shoot nearly 52 percent in the first half, UNCG limited ASU to 21 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes. UNCG shot 38 percent from the field, and made 14-of-24 from the line.
Simpson was 6-of-16 from the field with a pair of three-pointers, and 3-of-5 from the free throw line. He added nine rebounds. Williams finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists. Armstrong chipped in with 11 points, six boards, three assists and two steals off the bench.
Butts led the Mountaineers with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
UNCG owned a decisive advantage on the glass, out-rebounding App State 44-36. The Spartans also committed just nine turnovers while forcing 14.
Sunday's semifinal game can be seen on ESPN3 or in North Carolina on the SoCon Sports Network (WUNC).