BLACKSBURG, Va. – For just the second time in program history, the UNCG men’s basketball team has notched a victory over the Atlantic Coast Conference as the Spartans rallied from an 11-point second half deficit to upset Virginia Tech 55-52 at the Cassell Coliseum.
The Spartans out-scored Virginia Tech 23-9 over the final 10:06 of the game to pick up their first win over the ACC since beating Georgia Tech Nov. 9, 2007, snapping a 23-game streak against the conference. UNCG will play its third straight game against an ACC foe Monday night when it hosts NC State at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“These are the type of wins that are big for program like ours that is trying to rise up with a bunch of young kids,” head coach Wes Miller said. “This win should give us a lot of belief that we can play against anyone on our schedule. I am really proud of our group for a great team win and it really means a lot for our program to beat an ACC program.”
The Spartans were able to make their comeback successful by hitting clutch free throws, finishing the game shooting 87.5 percent (14-of-16) from the free throw line. Additionally, UNCG only committed 13 turnovers and matched the Hokies on the glass with a 34-34 rebounding battle despite Virginia Tech coming in as one of the top rebounding teams in the ACC.
Junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) and sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) combined for 33 points in the victory, including 23 in the second half as they took control of the game for the Spartans.
Cain posted his team and Southern-Conference leading fifth double-double of the season to lead the Spartans to the victory. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes of action as he was 8-of-14 from the field and hit both free throws. Locke added 15 points in 29 minutes before fouling out of the game. He scored 13 points in the second half, including the final two field goals made by the Spartans, which gave UNCG the lead for good.
“I am so proud of our team,” Miller said. “It feels good for our team to get a win at an ACC team. This was kind of like our Wake Forest game, but we just dug down deep, made plays at the end and found a win to come out victorious. Our guys were tough enough to play the last minute and a half without a timeout and that says a lot about them and the work they have put in.”
UNCG (7-7) trailed 43-32 with 10:06 remaining in the game as Virginia Tech opened the second half out-scoring the Spartans 21-10 in the first 10 minutes of the frame. The Spartans did not back down in front of 4,847 fans at the Cassell Coliseum and started to chip away at the deficit. UNCG scored the next seven points to pull within four when sophomore Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) nailed a three-pointer to force the Hokies into a timeout.
Virginia Tech responded with four straight points to run the lead to 47-39 before the Spartans scored seven straight to make it a one-point game at 47-46. Cain scored on back-to-back possessions to pull within four before Locke hit 3-of-4 from the free throw line to narrow the margin to one point.
The Hokies took a 49-46 lead as Marshall Wood scored in the paint with 2:21 left. The Spartans came down the floor and went inside to Cain who quickly scored to bring it back to one. Junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) came up with a key defensive stop on the ensuing possession, stripping Jarell Eddie of the ball to give UNCG a chance for the lead. Potts drove down the lane and gained the attention of the defense, before dropping the ball off to Locke for the easy basket and a 50-49 lead.
Once again the Spartans came up with a stop on the defensive end and again they went into Locke in the post. He went to work on the Hokie defense and powered his way to the rim for the basket and a 52-49 lead with 34 seconds remaining.
After just one of two free throws made by the Hokies, senior Drew Parker (Houston, Texas/La Porte) was fouled and after missing the first free throw, hit the second to keep it a three-point game at 53-50. Devin Wilson drove the length of the court for Virginia Tech and scored the basket but missed the free throw, which would have tied the game with 10 seconds left.
Redshirt freshman center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) muscled his way for the rebound off the missed free throw and was quickly fouled. White calmly stepped up and hit both of his free throws to make it a 55-52 lead, despite only hitting 12-of-21 (57.1%) from the line in the previous 13 games this year before the biggest two makes of his young career. Virginia Tech came down on the final possession and got a deep three-point look off, but it was well wide and Parker grabbed the rebound to seal the victory sending the Spartans into a huge celebration.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 36.5 percent (19-of-52) from the field and just 3-of-12 (25%) from long range in the victory, but did their work on the defensive end. UNCG held the Hokies to just 36 percent (18-of-50) shooting from the field and only 20 percent (3-of-15) from long range. Virginia Tech also hit just 56.5 percent (13-of-23) from the free throw line and just 9-of-17 in the second half.
Paulos finished the game with six points but earned his stripes with his defensive work. He played primarily on Eddie and limited the Hokies’ top scorer to just four points on 1-of-12 shooting. Eddie entered the game averaging 18.6 points per game and averaged 23.3 points over the last three games. Freshman guard Tyrone Outlaw (Roxboro, N.C./Person County) added six points in his third start of the year. Potts finished with five points, four assists and a career-high seven rebounds off the bench.
Wood led Virginia Tech with 14 points, but only hit 4-of-13 from the field in the loss. Joey van Zegeren added 11 points and seven rebounds while Ben Emelogu added 11 points and five rebounds.
The came out of the gate and opened on an 8-3 run to take the early lead. Outlaw made his third start of the season and scored the Spartans’ first four points of the game while Cainnotched back-to-back baskets to secure the early advantage.
Virginia Tech responded with a 9-2 run to take a 14-10 lead and force UNCG into a timeout. Emelogu scored five straight points to cap the run before Miller slowed the momentum with the 30-second break. The Spartans answered right back with a 10-2 run of to retake the lead at 20-16. Paulos hit three-pointers on consecutive possession to put UNCG back in front while Cain added a floater in the lane to force the Hokies into a timeout.
The teams went into the locker room at halftime tied at 22-22 as the evenly played first 20 minutes also saw the rebounding battled tied at 17-17. The Spartans connected on 32.1 percent (9-of-28) from the field and hit 2-of-9 (22.2%) from long range in the first half. Cain led the team with eight points and six rebounds while both Paulos and Outlaw added six points apiece.
Virginia Tech connected on 34.8 percent (8-of-23) from the field and also hit just 2-of-9 (22.2%) from long range. The Hokies committed nine first half turnovers. Van Zegeren led Virginia Tech with six points and four rebounds while Devin Wilson and Emelogu each chipped in five points.
The Spartans return to action Monday night as they play their third straight ACC foe hosting NC State at the Greensboro Coliseum. Game time is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App.
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