GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team opened the 2014-15 regular season Friday night as the Spartans posted a 76-62 victory over Chowan in a game played at Fleming Gymnasium on campus. The Spartans held a 44-25 lead at halftime before the second half was slowed by a total of 60 fouls and 68 free throws attempted in the game.
“I am glad we came out with a win,” head coach Wes Miller said. “With such a young team we need to learn how to close out games, which we were able to do tonight. We are really injured right now and our last injury to Diante Baldwin has really hurt us in terms of ball-handling. We need some guys to step up to the challenge and I think we have players ready for that challenge.”
Sophomore guard Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) and redshirt sophomore center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) combined for 41 points. Saddler led the way with 21 points, three assists and five steals on the night as he was 5-of-13 from the field but hit 10-of-12 from the free throw line in 34 minutes of play. White came just shy of a double-double with 20 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes of action. He connected on 7-of-10 from the field and hit 5-of-8 from the free throw line.
The Spartans finished the night shooting 42 percent (21-of-50) from the field and 37.5 percent (6-of-16) from long range in the victory. UNCG was strong at the free throw line, hitting 77.8 percent (28-of-36) while only committing nine turnovers. Chowan connected on 44.2 percent (19-of-43) from the field but only hit 56.3 percent (18-of-32) from the charity stripe. Michael Adams led the Hawks with 16 points while Josh Mellette added 12 points as Chowan had four players disqualified due to fouls.
Both teams came out slowly in the first game of the season with the Spartans holding a 17-14 lead over 11 minutes into the game. The Spartans posted a 9-0 spurt to take the lead to double figures as senior Jamal Mitchell (Charlotte, N.C./Gardner-Webb) hit a three-pointer and four different Spartans scored during the spurt.
The Spartans opened the game up with an 18-3 run to take a 44-21 lead with 1:16 left in the first half. White scored six points during the run with an old-fashioned three-point play and a traditional 3-pointer while Saddler added five points, all from the line, to take the lead to 23 points.
The second half saw the game slow to a crawl as there were 35 total fouls called in the final 20 minutes and 43 free throws attempted. The Spartans were able to keep the Hawks at an arms distance throughout the second half, finding an answer each time Chowan made a push. White battled through foul trouble in the second half to score 10 points while Saddler added nine points in the second half.
Senior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) added eight points and five rebounds in 35 minutes of action. Sophomore guard Clay Byrd (Connelly Springs, N.C./East Burke) made his first career start and added seven points and three assists in 28 minutes of action.
The Spartans return to action Tuesday night as they host their first game at the Greensboro Coliseum when they welcome in cross-state foe UNCW. Game time is set for 7 p.m.