MACON, Ga. – The UNCG men’s basketball team continues its three-game road swing Saturday afternoon when the Spartans travel to Macon, Ga., for a Southern Conference showdown with Mercer. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at Hawkins Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the ESPN App with Frank Malloy and Dean Keener on the call. The game will also be radio broadcast on TuneIn with Kyle Tait on the call for the Spartans Sports Network.
Saturday’s game pits the two longest winning streaks in the SoCon against each other as UNCG enters with a five-game winning streak and Mercer bring a four-game winning streak into the game. The Spartans have won 10 out of their last 11 games and enter the Mercer game with a 21-6 overall record and a 12-2 mark in SoCon play. UNCG is alone in second place in the standings, one game behind first place ETSU while Mercer is tied for fifth pace overall with a 14-13 record and a 7-7 SoCon mark.
Saturday’s game marks the 11th meeting all-time between UNCG and Mercer. The Spartans trail the all-time series by a 4-6 margin but have won the past four meetings. Last season, UNCG swept the regular season series, including the first-ever win in Macon (72-66). Earlier this year, the Spartans posted a 70-66 overtime win against the Bears at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Mercer rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final minute of regulation to force overtime. The Spartans’ defense came up big in the overtime period, holding Mercer to just 2-of-9 (22.2%) shooting from the field and 1-of-3 (33.3%) from deep in the extra frame. The Spartans opened the overtime period on an 8-0 run, squashing the momentum that Mercer had entering the extra session. Junior guard Demetrius Troy (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) scored the first five points of the overtime period to swing the momentum back to the Spartans.
Troy finished with 12 points, as he was one of three Spartans in double figures and one of six Spartans with eight of more points in the balanced scoring attack. Junior guard Francis Alonso (Malaga, Spain/Cushing Academy) added 17 points and six assists, hitting 3-of-7 from distance and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Senior forward Marvin Smith (Richmond, Va./Fork Union Military Academy) added 15 points, 14 of which came after halftime, hitting three 3-pointers in the second half.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 38.6 percent (22-of-57) from the field and just 28.6 percent (8-of-28) from 3-point land. UNCG overcame the cold shooting by forcing Mercer into 18 turnovers on the night and held the Bears to just 20-of-50 (40%) shooting in the victory. Stephon Jelks led Mercer with 11 points and 11 rebounds while Ross Cummings came off the bench to add 11 points in nine minutes. Demetre Rivers added 11 points while Ethan Stair chipped in 10 points.
The Spartans are 7-5 on the road this season and 5-2 in SoCon play with wins at VMI, Western Carolina, Samford, Furman and The Citadel. UNCG is averaging 74.0 points per game while shooting 44.8 percent (712-of-1590) from the field and 36 percent (261-of-725) from 3-point land. Opponents are averaging 62.7 points per game while shooting 40.8 percent (561-of-1376) from the field and 31.7 percent (174-of-549) from 3-point land.
Alonso leads the team in scoring at 16.2 points per game and leads the team with 90 made 3-pointers, connecting on 41.9 percent. He is also shooting 88.5 percent (79-of-78) from the free throw line. Smith is second on the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game while grabbing 5.4 rebounds per game. He is second on the team with 58 made 3-pointers, connecting on 33.7 percent.
Sophomore forward James Dickey (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) leads the team and the SoCon in rebounding at 8.4 caroms per game. Dickey adds 8.8 points per game and is shooting 52.6 percent (91-of-173) from the field. He also leads the conference with 56 blocked shots. Freshman guard Isaiah Miller (Covington, Ga./Newton) adds 8.1 points per game off the bench. Miller leads the team with 40 steals and is shooting 95-of-165 (57.6%) on 2-point field goals. Troy adds 7.1 points per game and leads the team with 105 assists. He is third on the team with 37 made 3-pointers. Senior forward Jordy Kuiper (Groningen, Netherlands/Canaries Basketball Academy) adds 6.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting 34.8 percent (31-of-89) from 3-point land. Sophomore forward Kyrin Galloway (Milton, Ga./Milton) adds 6.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
The Bears have won four-straight games with wins over Wofford, Chattanooga, Samford and VMI. Mercer is 9-3 at home this season and 4-3 in league play at Hawkins Arena. The Bears are averaging 76.0 points per game while shooting 47.3 percent (706-of-1492) from the field and 38.7 percent (234-of-605) from 3-point land. Opponents are averaging 68.7 points per game while shooting 42.9 percent (628-of-1463) from the field and 35.7 percent (248-of-695) from deep.
Mercer has been 11 games without its leading scorer in Ria’n Holland, who is out with an injury. Holland was averaging 19.0 points per game and shooting 47.5 percent (48-of-101) from 3-point land. Demetre Rivers is second on the team in scoring at 10.4 points per game and has hit 33 3-pointers. Stephon Jelks adds 10.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while connecting on 44.6 percent (37-of-83) from 3-point land. Jordan Strawberry adds 9.7 points per game and has a team-high 123 assists. Desmond Ringer is averaging 9.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Ross Cummings adds 7.1 points per game but has been inserted into the lineup recently and is averaging 17.2 points per game over his last six outings.
-- UNCG --