GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG men’s basketball head coach Wes Miller returned to the Dean Smith Center for the first time as part of an opposing team Saturday night as his Spartans dropped an 81-50 contest to hosting North Carolina. The game marked a homecoming of sorts for Miller, assistant coach Jackie Manuel and director of basketball operations J.B. Tanner, who all won National Championships under UNC head coach Roy Williams.
“This was an awkward feeling walking in here to play and having so many good experiences and memories in this building,” Miller said. “I told Coach (Roy Williams) before the game, this was the first time that I have ever truly loved the person that I’m playing against on the other bench.”
The Spartans were put in a tough position in the first half as they only connected on 28.6 percent (6-of-21) from the field in the first 20 minutes. UNCG committed 15 first half turnovers as the Tar Heels took a 24-14 lead and ballooned it to 44-24, scoring the final 20 points of the half.
“As far as the game goes, I have to give them (UNC) a lot of credit,” Miller said. “Coming off a big win against Michigan State, I think they are starting to hit their stride, especially defensively. Their pressure and ability to get into the passing lanes, really shell-shocked us in the first half and dismantled the things we were trying to do offensively. I was proud of my guys in the second half because I thought they can our and fought. I was proud of how we responded.”
UNCG showed its mettle though in the second half as it battled the Tar Heels scoring 36-second half points connecting on 50 percent (14-of-28) from the field. Junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) paced the attack with 13 points and eight rebounds as he was 6-of-11 from the field. Cain scored nine of his points after the halftime break. Sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) also added 13 points as he was 5-of-8 from the field.
“We are a young group, but we have to figure out how to become a mature group come January and February,” Miller said. “If we can be mature – we are still going to be young – but if we can be mature come January and February, we can have a chance to do some good things in our league.”
North Carolina (6-2) used its size and athleticism in the post to control the tempo of the game as the Tar Heels out-rebounded UNCG 46-28, including 23 offensive rebounds. UNC scored 40 points in the paint in the victory as five different players scored in double figures. Brice Johnson led the Tar Heels with 14 points and six rebounds off the bench while James Michael McAdoo added 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Spartans started strong, holding a 6-4 lead just under four minutes into the game as Cain and Locke scored on consecutive possessions. Cain pulled the Spartans within six at 19-13 as he scored on a dunk off a backdoor play and pass from freshman guard Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy). North Carolina asserted itself down the stretch, posting a 25-1 run to close the final 8:22 of the half.
UNCG came out of the halftime break and opened the second half on a 13-4 run to trim the deficit to 48-27. Cain and Locke each scored four points in the run while junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) hit a three-pointer in the corner.
The teams traded baskets back and forth in the second half but the Spartans were unable to make a dent in the deficit they dug in the first half. Freshman Tyrone Outlaw (Roxboro, N.C./Person County) came off the bench and scored nine points in 24 minutes as he hit a pair of three-pointers and was 3-of-4 from the free throw line.
Marcus Paige, UNC’s leading scorer, was limited to 12 points but dished out eight assists as he was just 4-of-12 form the field. Nate Britt added 11 points and four assists while Kennedy Meeks chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
The Spartans return to action Wednesday afternoon as they host Claflin in a rare midweek afternoon game. Tip-off is set for noon at the Greensboro Coliseum is part of the Guilford County Schools Education Day and is open to only GCS middle school students, UNCG season ticket holders and UNCG students.
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