CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The UNCG men’s basketball team opened the 2017-18 season Friday night with a tough challenge as the Spartans battled Atlantic Coast Conference foe Virginia before falling 60-48 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. The Spartans open the home season Wednesday night when they face off against North Carolina Wesleyan on campus at Fleming Gymnasium.
“I really like my team,” head coach Wes Miller said. “I hope we shoot it better going forward but I thought we played hard and played with great effort. We beat them on the glass and that is something to take away from tonight. We turned it over and didn’t make many shots so you have to give Virginia credit for that.”
The Spartans struggled shooting on the night, hitting just 29.4 percent (15-of-51) from the field and only 15.4 percent (4-of-26) from 3-point land in the loss. UNCG out-rebounded the Cavaliers by a 36-30 margin Friday, including grabbing 16 offensive rebounds. The Spartans trailed by 19-points in the second half before rallying to trim the deficit to eight points with 6:23 remaining but could not get any closer.
Senior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) led the way with 12 points and nine rebounds as he was 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Junior guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) scored nine points while freshman Kyrin Galloway (Milton, Ga./Milton) scored seven points off the bench. Redshirt sophomore forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) grabbed eight rebounds, four offensive, to go along with six points.
Virginia connected on 42.9 percent (18-fo-42) from the field and just 25 percent (4-of-16) from deep. The Cavaliers hit 20-of-24 (83.3%) from the free throw line and forced the Spartans in 17 turnovers. Kyle Guy led Virginia with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the line while Devon Hall added 13 points as the only two Cavaliers in double figures scoring.
The Spartans came out of the gate and went back and forth with Virginia as Alonso scored their first six points as the game was tied early r 6-6. Guy started to heat up, scoring eight straight and getting 14 of his 16 points in the first 13 minutes as Virginia extended the lead to 22-16. Smith hit a pair of free throws to trim the deficit to four at 24-20 but Virginia scored the final five points of the half at the free throw line to take a 29-20 lead into the locker room.
The Spartans connected on just 26.1 percent (6-of-23) from the field and missed all 12 of its 3-pointers in the first half but hit all eight of its free throws. Alonso led UNCG with eight points while Smith, Dickey and Galloway each added four points as only four players scored in the first half. Virginia connected on 34.8 percent (8-of-23) from the field and just 22.2 percent (2-of-9) from distance but went to free throw line 14 times, hitting 78.6 percent. Guy led the Cavaliers with 14 points while Wilkins chipped in nine points in the opening 20 minutes.
Virginia came out in the second half and posted an 11-1 start to extend the lead to 40-21 with 14:24 remaining. The Spartans buckled in and started to chip away at the deficit, coming up with stops on defense to give UNCG a chance for a rally.
The Spartans posted an 8-0 run to pull within eight points at 44-36 with 6:23 remaining. Redshirt freshman Kylia Sykes (Washington, D.C./St. John’s College) started the run with a put back dunk and Smith capped the run with a deep 3-pointer to raise the tension level for the 13,855 fans in attendance. The Spartans were unable to keep the run going though before falling by the final 12-point deficit.
-- UNCG --