Menís Basketball Opens SoCon Play With 95-87 Road Win At The Citadel
CHARLESTON, S.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team opened Southern Conference play Wednesday night with a hard-fought 95-87 victory over The Citadel on the road at McAlister Field House. The Spartans led from start to finish to improve to 10-4 on the season and 1-0 in league play. UNCG returns to action Dec. 31 when it hosts Samford in a Saturday matinee with a 2 p.m. start at the Greensboro Coliseum.
The Spartans’ 10-4 start is the best since the 1995-96 season when UNCG opened the year with a 13-4 record. The Spartans also became the first team in the SoCon to reach double digits in wins this year. UNCG also posted its 10th win of the season Dec. 28 this year after not posting its 10th win last year until Feb. 18, 2016 on its way to a 15-19 overall record.
The Spartans connected on 57.6 percent (34-of-59) from the field and hit 57.9 percent (11-of-19) from 3-point land in the victory. UNCG’s hot shooting helped it overcome a season-high 28 turnovers in the chaotic paced game. The Spartans held The Citadel, the nation’s highest scoring team, to 16 points below its average as the Bulldogs shot 32.9 percent (25-of-76) from the field and 29.4 percent (10-of-34) from deep.
Senior guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) led five Spartans in double figures with a career-high 25 points while dishing out eight assists, grabbing five rebounds and posting three steals. Baldwin connected on 8-of-15 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
Sophomore guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) scored a career-high 18 points in 23 minutes off the bench before fouling out. Troy connected on 6-of-8 from the field, including 4-of-5 from deep, while dishing out six assists with just one turnover. Junior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds, as he was 5-of-8 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Sophomore guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) added 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting while redshirt freshman forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) scored 10 points in the second half while grabbing eight rebounds. The Spartans also owned the glass, posting a 51-36 advantage on the glass. Junior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) led the way on the glass with a career-high 11 rebounds to go along with his six points.
Preston Parks led The Citadel (7-7, 0-1 SoCon) with 32 points off the bench as he was 10-of-21 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. The Bulldogs went to the line 36 times in the loss, hitting 75 percent. Zane Najdawi scored 13 points, all in the second half, while Kaelon Harris added 12 points in the loss.
The Spartans came out of the gate quickly and opened to a 14-3 lead through the first four minutes. UNCG hit five of its first six shots from the field as Baldwin scored six early and Smith added five points. The Citadel opened the game shooting its first seven shots from distance, connecting on just 14.2 percent.
The Citadel settled in and UNCG held a 21-11 lead with 12:14 remaining. The Spartans responded with a 12-2 run to take a 33-13 lead as senior center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) and Kuiper eight points during the run. Alonso nailed a 3-pointer against the Bulldog press to give the Spartans a 20-point land.
The Citadel came back with a modest 7-3 run to narrow the gap to 36-20 but the Spartans answered that with a 9-4 run to take a 45-24 lead with 3:19 remaining as Smith nailed a 3-pointer. The Bulldogs took advantage of UNCG foul trouble to go to the free throw line 16 times in the first half, connecting on 75 percent to chip away at the deficit. Smith buried a 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining to send the Spartans into the locker room with a 49-31 lead at the break.
The Spartans connected on 54.5 percent (18-of-33) from the field and hit 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from 3-point land to help overcome an uncharacteristic 12 turnovers in the half. Smith led the way with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting while Troy added 11 points off the bench, hitting all four of his shots, including three 3-pointers. Baldwin added 10 points and five assists while Kuiper led the way on the glass with nine rebounds as UNCG out-rebounded The Citadel 26-20 in the half.
The Citadel was limited to just 21.6 percent (8-of-37) shooting from the field and 20 percent (3-of-15) from 3-point land in the first half. The Bulldogs took advantage at the free throw line going 12-of-16 from the field with Preston Parks hitting 7-of-8 to lead the way with 11 points.
The Bulldogs opened the second half on an 8-3 run to pull within 13 at 52-39. The Spartans responded with an 11-2 run as Baldwin got down hill against The Citadel defense, scoring in the paint at will in the second half give UNCG a 69-49 lead with 11:34 remaining.
The Citadel shot its way back into the game as the Bulldogs posted a 19-8 run to trim the deficit to single digits at 81-72 with 5:13 remaining. Warren Sledge and Parks each hit a pair of 3-pointers during the run while Najdawi scored four points during the spurt.
The Spartans had another answer, posting a 10-2 run to make it a 91-74 lead with 2:01 remaining. Dickey and Troy started the run with back-to-back baskets before Baldwin scored six straight to make it a 17-point advantage. The Bulldogs continued to press in the closing minutes, posting a 13-4 run in the final two minutes but the Spartans hit enough free throws and got some key defensive rebounds to preserve the victory.
-- UNCG --