WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team gave Atlantic Coast Conference member Wake Forest all it wanted Saturday afternoon, but the Spartans could not overcome a cold shooting performance falling 59-51 to the Demon Deacons at the Joel Coliseum on ESPN3. The Spartans pulled within two points late in the second half as they rallied from a double-digit deficit, but could not complete the comeback as Wake Forest improved to 10-2 with the win.
“We have had an up-and-down non-conference season which is expected with eight newcomers on our roster,” head coach Wes Miller said. “We have had some really low moments this year and have had some really high moments. Even though we lost today, I did feel this is a higher moment for our team. We came together and played really well defensively, unfortunately it just did not go our way on the offensive end.”
For the second straight game, the Spartans’ turned in a strong defensive effort limiting the Demon Deacons to a season-low 59 points. The Spartans held Wake Forest to 44.9 percent (22-of-49) shooting from the field and just 14.3 percent (2-of-14) from three-point land. UNCG could not turn that success into points on the offensive end though as the Spartans hit just 31.7 percent (19-of-60) from the field and a season-low 6.7 percent (1-of-15) from long range.
The Spartans battled Wake Forest on the glass all game long, despite the Demon Deacons entering the game averaging 10 more rebounds per game than their opponents. UNCG was narrowly out-rebounded by a 41-40 margin, but grabbed 14 offensive rebounds against the taller frontcourt.
Junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) posted his fourth double-double of the season to lead the Spartans. Cain scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds in 32 minutes of action. He connected on 7-of-18 from the field and 2-of-3 from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) added 14 points and seven rebounds in the loss as UNCG only had two players score in double figures.
“I think we have a chance to be very special in our league when we play with the togetherness we played with today,” Miller said. “I hope we can finish the non-conference season out right and play with the same intensity and effort we exhibited in this game heading into Southern Conference play in January.”
Devin Thomas led Wake Forest with 12 points and 13 rebounds as he was 5-of-9 from the field. Tyler Cavanaugh added 12 points while Codi Miller-McIntyre finished with 11 points, all of which came in the second half.
Both teams came out of the game cold shooting as the first field goal of the game came 3:26 into the game when Cavanaugh scored for Wake Forest. The Spartans posted an 8-2 run to take a 9-6 lead just under eight minutes into the game as Cain and Locke scored four points apiece in the spurt.
Wake Forest responded with a 10-0 run to take a 16-9 lead as Thomas started to heat up, scoring seven straight points during the spurt. The Demon Deacons stretched the lead to double figures down the stretch of the first half, holding a 29-19 lead with 10 seconds remaining. Senior guard Drew Parker (Houston, Texas/La Porte) was fouled on a three-point attempt right before the half ended and hit all three free throws to send UNCG into the locker room trailing 29-22.
The Spartans connected on just 25.8 percent (8-of-31) from the field and missed all eight three-pointers in the first half. UNCG took care of the ball in the opening stanza, only committing five miscues while Wake Forest turned the ball over eight times. Cain nearly posted a first half double-double as he scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 18 minutes. Wake Forest also struggled offensively, shooting just 22.2 percent (2-of-9) from long range and just 42.9 percent (3-of-7) from the free throw line.
Wake Forest came out in the second half and extended the lead to 11 at 41-30 when Andre Washington hit a jump shot. The Spartans showed their mettle as they did not back down, recording a 12-3 run to narrow the gap to 44-42 with 6:49 remaining. The run was started on a resilient possession for UNCG as the Spartans had two shots blocked in a row, but kept battling for the rebound before Cain scored on an offensive rebound and was fouled to complete an old-fashioned three-point play igniting the run.
Junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) kept the momentum on the Spartans’ side, hitting their only three-pointer of the game to make a 42-36 contest. The Spartans kept coming as freshman Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy), Locke and Cain all scored on consecutive possessions while Wake Forest struggled from the charity stripe during the stretch, hitting just 3-of-6.
The Spartans came up with a stop on the defensive end on the ensuing possession and came down the court with the ball in a one-possession game. UNCG was able to get a good look at a three-point shot, which would have given it the lead, but Paulos’ long-range shot rolled around the rim and out keeping Wake Forest in the lead. The Demon Deacons withstood the Spartans’ run and turned in an 11-4 spurt to get breathing room at 55-46 before UNCG ran out of time on the clock for the comeback attempt.
The Spartans return to action and continue their stretch of three straight games against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents Dec. 28 when they travel to Blacksburg, Va., to face off against Virginia Tech. Game time is set for Noon and will be televised on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App.
- UNCG -