GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball fell into a 10-point first half hole Thursday night and could not recover as the Spartans dropped an 88-78 Southern Conference contest to hosting Samford at the Pete Hanna Center. The loss drops the Spartans to 3-3 in league play while the Bulldogs improve to 2-4 in the SoCon. UNCG returns to action Saturday night when it travels to SoCon leading and undefeated in the league Chattanooga for a 7 p.m. contest on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App.
“We just couldn’t guard Samford tonight,” head coach Wes Miller said. “We had no answer for Tim Williams in the paint and he made some great plays. They crushed us on the offensive glass and that is supposed to be one of our strengths, rebounding the ball. We couldn’t guard these guys tonight – off the bounce, in the post, on the three-point line – they shot 58 percent tonight. We put ourselves in a hole from the very beginning, allowing them to score 30 points in the first 10 minutes of the game.”
The Spartans allowed Samford to shoot 58.8 percent (30-of-51) from the field and 60 percent (6-of-10) from long range on the night. UNCG limited its turnovers to just 10 in the loss, but those 10 miscues led to 17 points off turnovers as the Bulldogs took advantage of each opportunity.
Junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) posted his eighth double-double of the season in the loss, scoring a career-high 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Cain connected on 9-of-19 from the field against the Samford zone but hit only 5-of-10 from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) added 14 points on a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, but was limited to just 18 minutes due to foul trouble all game long.
Freshman guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) tied his career-high with nine points off the bench, while also dishing out two assists. Classmate Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) added 13 points and six assists as he was 11-of-14 from the free throw line.
Tim Williams notched a double-double in the victory with 29 points and 12 rebounds to lead Samford. Williams was 11-of-17 from the field and hit 7-of-12 from the free throw line in 28 minutes. Freshman Isaiah Williams added 19 points on the strength of 4-of-4 shooting from distance, including a couple of big three-pointers to slow Spartan runs.
The two teams traded baskets in the early going with the Spartans pulling within two at 13-11 when junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) hit his first three-pointer of the game. The three-pointer was his school-record 11th straight shot from distance on the year. He missed his second three-pointer to end his streak just four shy of the NCAA Division I record (15 by Todd Leslie of Northwestern, 1990).
Samford started to heat up offensively, posting an 11-4 run to take a 24-15 lead. The Bulldogs hit three straight three-pointers in the run, including two by Isaiah Williams. The Spartans slowed the momentum briefly but Samford came back with a 10-2 run on the back of Raijon Kelly who scored nine straight in one stretch to give the Bulldogs a 40-25 lead.
The Spartans started to have some success against the Samford zone in the final three minutes of the half, closing on an 8-3 run to enter the locker room trailing 43-33. Sophomore Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) started the spurt with an old-fashioned three-point play while Cain hit a pair from the free throw line.
Samford was strong offensively in the opening 20 minutes, hitting 63 percent (17-of-27) from the field and 71.4 percent (5-of-7) from three-point land. The Spartans on the other hand hit 46.4 percent (13-of-28) from the field but struggled from the free throw line hitting just 6-of-14 (42.9%). Additionally, UNCG was out-rebounded in the first half by a 19-14 margin.
Locke scored 10 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field in the first half but was limited to just 11 minutes due to three fouls. Cain added 10 points and five rebounds but he was uncharacteristically just 2-of-6 from the free throw line. Isaiah Williams led Samford with 12 points in the first half while Kelly added 11. Tim Williams chipped in with nine points and eight rebounds in the opening half.
Samford came out of the break and extended its lead to as much as 12 points, before taking a 55-44 lead with 13:19 remaining in the game. The Spartans started to make a run, posting an 8-1 stretch to pull within four at 56-52. Baldwin was the catalyst for the spurt, scoring seven of the eight points, including a three-pointer that narrowed the gap down to four.
The Bulldogs had the answer though, scoring five straight to run the lead back to nine at 61-52. Williams started the run with a basket in the paint before Kelly hit a pair of free throws to give the Bulldogs breathing room.
The Spartans tried to mount a rally, but each time they pulled within two possessions, Samford had an answer. Paulos nailed a three-pointer to make it a 71-65 contest with 4:23 left, but Isaiah Williams answered right back with a three-pointer of his own to extend it back to nine points. Each time the Spartans made a push, they were unable to get the defensive stop and Samford kept UNCG at an arms length down the stretch.
The Spartans finished the night shooting 42.6 percent (26-of-61) from the field and just 25 percent (4-of-16) from three-point land in the loss. UNCG connected on 68.8 percent (22-of-32) from the free throw line, hitting 16-of-18 in the second half after its tough first 20 minutes from the stripe.
The Spartans return to action Saturday night as they travel to Chattanooga to take on the 7-0 Mocs in SoCon action. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at McKenzie Arena and will be televised on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App.
- UNCG -