GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team had two chances in the final minute for the game-tying basket roll just off the rim as the Spartans suffered just their fifth home loss of the season Saturday evening, dropping a 64-62 contest to Georgia Southern in Southern Conference action at the Greensboro Coliseum. The hotly contested game say the game tied six times and the lead change hands 16 times as UNCG falls to 4-5 in league play while the Eagles improve to 4-4 in the SoCon.
“I was proud of our guys for the fight we showed in the last four minutes,” head coach Wes Miller said. “The first 36 minutes though, we were just not playing well, kind of like the first 22 minutes of the Appalachian State game. We need to play consistently well for 40 minutes and not wait until our backs are against the wall. We have to find a way to play with that fight for 40 minutes with our passion, intensity and execution. We have the character and what it takes to play that way, we just need to be more consistent with our play and not wait until our backs are against the wall.”
Sophomore Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) continued his strong play scoring a team-high 13 points off the bench as the UNCG reserves cashed in 33 points in the loss. He connected on 4-of-7 from the field, including three three-pointers, in 27 minutes of action. Redshirt sophomore center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) added 11 points off the bench as well as he was 5-of-6 from the field while junior Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) added 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Spartans connected on 46.8 percent (22-of-47) from the field and hit 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from three-point land in the loss. UNCG was out-battled on the boards though by a 39-28 margin, including 16 offensive rebounds for the Eagles. Georgia Southern took advantage of the opportunities, scoring 16 second-chance points and attempting 12 more field goals than the Spartans.
Georgia Southern connected on 39 percent (23-of-59) from the field and just 24 percent (6-of-25) from long range in the victory but took advantage of the added possessions from its offensive rebounding. Jelani Hewitt, the SoCon leading scorer, led the way with 23 points while Kyle Doyle recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Both teams came out of the gate slowly as it took almost three minutes for the first field goal to be hit. Georgia Southern struck the first blow, taking a 13-5 lead as Tre Bussey drove down the lane and scored in the paint.
The Spartans settled in and posted a 9-1 run to take a 17-14 lead. Potts continued his strong play igniting the early run by scoring five points in the game while freshman Tyrone Outlaw (Roxboro, N.C./Person County) scored four points in transition during the run.
The teams went back and forth for most of the half as there were 10 lead changes, ending with Georgia Southern taking a 36-35 lead into the locker room. The Spartans connected on 50 percent (14-of-28) from the field and 41.7 percent (5-of-12) from three-point land in the first half. UNCG was aided by its bench, which scored 30 of 35 points in the opening 20 minutes with Potts leading the way with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field. White added eight points on 4-of-5 shooting while Outlaw chipped in six points.
The Spartans lost the rebounding battle in the first half as GSU held a 22-12 edge on the glass, including eight offensive rebounds. The Eagles connected on 40 percent (12-of-30) from the field in the first half with Hewitt leading the charge with 13 points while Doyle added eight points and eight rebounds.
The second half saw much of the same from the first half with teams traded baskets and the lead back and forth. The Spartans trailed by three at 52-49 with 12:31 remaining after a Torlorf Thomas drive to the basket. UNCG responded with four straight as White scored three points and sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) added a free throw.
The see-saw affair continued from that point forward until the Eagles took a 64-59 lead with 4:05 remaining as Doyle hit a three-pointer for the final points for Georgia Southern and a five-point lead. The three-point make came from an unlikely source, as it was the forwards third make of the season and only the ninth attempt from long range.
The two teams buckled in on defense as field goals were scarce in the final minutes. Cain hit a pair of free throws with 3:00 remaining to make it a one-possession game while freshman Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) hit one of two free throws to make it a 64-62 contest.
The Spartans got a stop on the defensive end and got the ball in Saddler’s hands. He was able to drive the baseline and dish it off to Locke underneath, but his attempt through contact in traffic rolled off the rim. UNCG elected to play defense instead of fouling and that plan worked as the Spartans got a stop and Potts grabbed the defensive rebound with seven seconds remaining. He drove the length of the floor and got into the lane as the clock was winding down. He dropped it off to Cain under the basket, who got a shot off in a crowd just before the horn sounded, but it too rolled off the rim and out giving the Eagles the victory.
The Spartans and Eagles will have a rematch in less than two weeks as UNCG travels to Statesboro Feb. 12 for the second half of the home-and-home series.
UNCG returns to action Thursday night as the Spartans make the short drive down I-40 to face Triad rival Elon. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
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