GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team led for all but 19 seconds Saturday night as the Spartans opened the 2013-14 season with an impressive 82-74 victory over Triad rival and Big South Conference preseason favorite High Point at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Spartans had a season-opener record crowd of 5,734 fans at the Coliseum, surpassing the Spartans’ previous mark of 5,672 against Clemson in the first game of the 2009 season.
“This was a big win for our young group of guys,” head coach Wes Miller said. “We are a totally new group of guys and to get a win in the opener against a very good High Point team that was picked to win the Big South, is rewarding for our team. I was most pleased with the team effort as everyone had moments tonight where they contributed to the victory up and down the lineup. If we can stay together and build on that team attitude, this team is talented enough to be pretty good this year.”
The Spartans’ frontcourt duo of sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) and junior Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) led the way as they combined for 42 points and 16 rebounds. Locke fell just one point shy of tying his career-high as he finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. He was 7-of-12 from the field and 7-of-9 from the free throw line in 33 minutes of action.
Cain was playing in his first career game as a Spartan after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just 27 minutes of action. He was 9-of-13 from and hit both of his free throw attempts while also dishing out three assists.
Freshman forward Tyrone Outlaw (Roxboro, N.C./Person County) came off the bench to provide a spark, nearly missing a double-double in his first career game. Outlaw scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 24 minutes of action as he was 3-of-9 from the field and hit 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Classmate Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) rounded out the Spartans in double figures as he scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists while battling through cramps the entire second half.
Allan Chaney led High Point (0-1) as he scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but was 9-of-20 from the field. John Brown, the preseason Big South Player of the Year, scored 19 points and added eight rebounds but was limited to just 22 minutes due to foul trouble.
The Spartans came out of the gate quickly, scoring the first six points of the game as they used the energy from the crowd to take the lead. Locke continued his strong play from the exhibition game, scoring four of the first six points. High Point weathered the early storm and pulled within two at 10-8 as John Brown scored four straight points.
The Spartans kept High Point trailing with a quick 5-0 burst to take a 15-8 lead as Locke scored another basket and the Spartans went to the free throw line with their aggressive play. UNCG extended its lead to double figures at 25-15 with a 6-0 stretch with 6:39 left in the half. Saddlerstarted the spurt with a basket in transition while Cain hit a baseline jumper for the 10-point lead.
High Point slowed the Spartans down with a zone defense and closed the half on a 7-1 run to narrow the Spartans’ halftime lead to 33-32. UNCG connected on 39.3 percent (11-of-28) from the field and just 25 percent (2-of-8) from long range. The Spartans went to the free throw line 17 times in the first half but only connected on 52.9 percent.
Locke led all scorers with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from the line. Saddler added six points and four assists in the opening 20 minutes. Allan Chaney led the Panthers with 12 points and six rebounds while Brown chipped in 11 points in 12 minutes of action.
High Point came out of the halftime break and took its first and only lead of the night 41-40 on a three-point play by Dejuan McGaughy at the 16:18 mark of the second half. The Spartans made that HPU lead short-lived though as Outlaw was fouled and calmly hit both free throws to give UNCG the lead back for good just 19 seconds later at 42-41.
The Spartans and Panthers maintained a one possession game for the next six-plus minutes until UNCG scored five straight points to take a 62-55 lead. Locke scored three in the run while freshman guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) scored a pivotal basket on a drive on the break.
The Spartans continued to keep the Panthers at bay and ran the lead to nine at 69-60 with 4:56 left as junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) nailed a three-pointer against the zone for the added cushion. The Panthers made one final push but Cain iced the victory by nailing a three-pointer with 3:50 left in the game to give the Spartans a 72-62 lead. UNCG secured the victory in the final minute from the free throw line, hitting seven of their last eight attempts.
The Spartans connected on 46.4 percent (26-of-56) from the field and just 28.4 percent (5-of-17) from three-point land but hit two crucial long-range shots in the second half. UNCG went to the free throw line 40 times in the victory, hitting 62.5 percent on the night and 10 of its last 12. The Spartans also out-rebounded the Panthers by a 42-38 margin while also dishing out 12 assists compared to just three for HPU.
High Point finished the game shooting 43.5 percent (27-of-62) from the field and only 7.1 percent (1-of-14) from long range in the loss. McGaughy added 13 points in 31 minutes while Adam Weary chipped in 13 points before fouling out after 23 minutes of play.
UNCG continues its four-game season-opening home stand Tuesday night as it welcomes in in-state rival East Carolina. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.
- UNCG -