CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The UNCG men’s basketball team rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit and held a one-point lead with 6:32 left, but the Spartans couldn’t hold off Southern Conference leading Chattanooga Saturday night falling 77-67 in front of 6,648 fans at the McKenzie Arena. The Spartans fall to 3-4 in SoCon play while the Mocs improve to 8-0 in league action and have won 10 straight games overall .
“You have to give an unbelievable amount of credit to Will (Wade) and his team,” head coach Wes Miller said. “That is a team we played three times last year and had success against them. They are playing so well this year and playing with a lot of confidence and aggressiveness. I am proud of our guys tonight. I thought we came into a tough environment and competed as a team. Not happy with the outcome, but if we continue to play with that fight and togetherness going forward, we will have some success this year.”
The Spartans trailed 39-28 at halftime but rallied for a second half lead, leading by as many as three with its last advantage coming at 56-55 with 6:32 remaining. UNCG connected on 45 percent (27-of-60) from the field, including 57.1 percent (16-of-28) in the second half. The Spartans won the rebounding battle, holding a 39-33 edge on the glass, including a 19-12 showing in the second half. UNCG was hampered by 18 turnovers in the loss, which led to 29 points off miscues for the Mocs.
Freshman guard Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) led the way with 24 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Saddler connected on 8-of-16 from the field and 8-of-11 from the free throw line, scoring 17 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) added 14 points in 32 minutes of action as he was 6-of-11 from the field and 2-of-3 from the free throw line.
Chattanooga (14-8, 8-0 SoCon) had four score in double figures in the victory with Casey Jones leading the way with 22 points. Jones was 7-of-10 from the field and 8-of-12 from the free throw line as he drove into the paint repeatedly. Z. Mason added 15 points and six rebounds while Ronrico White chipped in 11 points off the bench.
The Spartans came out of the gate and held their own early against the Mocs, taking an early 6-4 lead four minutes into the game. Chattanooga settled in and posted a 14-5 run to increase the advantage to 18-11 as Mason scored four points and Lance Stokes added four points off the bench early.
UNCG slowed the momentum, scoring six straight points to pull within one at 18-17. The Spartans were able to force some UTC turnovers, which led to points in transition. Chattanooga closed the half on a 13-3 run to take a 37-24 lead into the locker room. Martynas Bareika scored seven points in the run while White added five points as both players hit three-pointers during the stretch.
UNCG committed nine first half turnovers, which led to 15 points for the Mocs in the opening 20 minutes. The Spartans only hit 34.4 percent (11-of-32) from the field and were 5-of-11 (45.5%) from the free throw line. Locke led UNCG with 10 points while Saddled added seven points in the half. Chattanooga conversely hit 46.7 percent (14-of-30) from the field and was 9-of-11 (81.8%) from the free throw line. Bareika led the way with nine points while Mason added eight points.
The Spartans came out of the locker room a different team, scoring the first eight points of the half on their way to a 12-1 run tying the game at 40-40. Locke and Saddler each scored four points in the run while senior Drew Parker (Houston, Texas/La Porte) added a jumper and junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) scored in transition off a Mocs’ turnover to knot the game.
After UTC retook the lead at 46-42, the Spartans scored six straight to take a 48-46 lead. Redshirt freshman center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) scored four straight points in the post while Cain added a jumper to take the lead back. The Spartans held their largest lead of the night at 53-50 when Saddler scored in the paint.
The teams traded baskets until UNCG held a 56-55 lead when Jones started to go to work attacking the basket. He scored four straight points to give the Mocs the lead and Bareika hit a three-pointer for a 62-56 advantage. Sophomore guard Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) answered with a three-pointer of his own, but Chattanooga had an answer as Mason nailed a three for a 68-61 lead with 3:28 remaining.
The Spartans were able to get the deficit down to five on a pair of Saddler free throws, but UNCG committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions, allowing Chattanooga to get some breathing room down the stretch.
Junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) was held to 11 points and six rebounds in the loss, which is five points under his season average. Cain connected on 5-of-13 from the field but Chattanooga collapsed its defense in the paint against him. Paulos was held to five points but grabbed seven rebounds in the loss.
The Spartans return home to the Greensboro Coliseum Thursday night as they host in-state rival Appalachian State. Game time is set for 7 p.m. and will be the second meeting this season between the Spartans and Mountaineers.
- UNCG -