ELON, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team rallied from a 14-point deficit and took a three-point lead in the second half, but the Spartans could not maintain the advantage, falling 72-66 to Southern Conference and Triad rival Elon Thursday night at Alumni Gym. The loss drops the Spartans to 11-14 overall and 4-6 in SoCon play while the Phoenix improve to 13-11 overall and 6-3 in league play.
“I thought we came out of the gate aggressively early on both ends,” head coach Wes Miller said. “We had some rough spells offensively, but I thought we were getting good looks, we just were not hitting them in the first half. In the second half, it was pretty simple. We were able to score on one end and get a stop on the other end to create some momentum. We strung some possessions together like that and got on a roll. We just were not able to sustain that energy and made some bad plays in key moments that gave them the momentum back.”
Sophomore forward Kayel Locke (Baltimore, Md./McDonogh) was one of three Spartans to score in double figures in the loss, turning in 15 points and nine rebounds. Locke connected on 5-of-11 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line in his first double-figure scoring effort since Jan. 25 at Chattanooga.
Junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) added 16 points and eight rebounds while freshman Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) also chipped in 16 points, as he was 8-of-12 from the free throw line.
The Spartans connected on 35.9 percent (23-of-64) from the field and just 15.4 percent (2-of-13) from long range in the loss. UNCG played strong defense, limiting Elon to 40.3 percent (25-of-62) shooting from the field and only 10 percent (2-of-20) from long range, despite the Phoenix entering the game as the top three-point shooting team in the SoCon. The Spartans lost the rebounding battle for the third straight game by a 46-41 margin, including 18 offensive rebounds for Elon, which led to 16 second-chance points.
Elon had four players score in double figures in the victory with Ryley Beaumont leading the way with 14 points and nine rebounds. Lucas Troutman and Kevin Blake added 13 points apiece while Sebastian Koch added 11 points in the victory.
The teams traded baskets in the early going with Locke leading the way for the Spartans. He scored six of the Spartans’ first 12 points as UNCG trailed 18-14 with just over 10 minutes into the game.
Elon got some separation as it posted a 15-5 run to take a 33-19 lead. Beaumont and Koch hit three-pointers in the run, with Koch’s long distance shot coming on a bank to force UNCG into a timeout. The Spartans slowed the momentum down the stretch, out-scoring Elon 6-2 to head into the locker room trailing 35-25.
The Spartans connected on just 28.1 percent (9-of-32) from the field in the first half and missed all six of their three-point shots. Locke led the way with eight points and three rebounds while Saddler added seven points in the first half. Elon connected on 42.4 percent (14-of-33) from the field and hit 2-of-11 (18.2%) from long range in the opening half. Beaumont and Koch led the way with seven points apiece, while Troutman and Blake added six points each.
UNCG came out of the locker room a different team, posting a 19-6 run to take a 44-41 lead under eight minutes into the second half. Locke got the Spartans started by scoring on an offensive rebound on the first possession before Cain broke out for eight points in the run while Saddler added four points. Redshirt freshman center R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) scored on an offensive put back to tie the game at 41-41 and freshman Tyrone Outlaw (Roxboro, N.C./Person County) converted an old-fashioned three-point play for the 44-41 lead.
Elon responded with nine straight points to retake the lead for good. Jack Isenbarger scored four straight points and Blake converted an old-fashioned three-point play as the Phoenix forced UNCG into consecutive turnovers in the open court. Elon was able to extend the lead to nine at 60-51 with a 10-4 run as the Phoenix went to the free throw line, hitting 15-of-19 (78.9%) from the stripe in the second half.
The Spartans had one final push, posting an 8-2 run to narrow the gap to three at 62-59 when Saddler hit a pair of free throws with 1:08 remaining. UNCG got a boost during the run as junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) hit the Spartans’ first three-pointer of the night. After the teams traded baskets, Elon iced the victory by hitting six straight from the charity stripe in the final minute.
The Spartans will be off until next Wednesday night when they travel to Statesboro, Ga., for a SoCon matchup with Georgia Southern. Game time is set for 7 p.m. and will mark the second meeting between the two teams in the last three games.
- UNCG -