GREENSBORO, N.C. – The UNCG men’s basketball team suffered a hard fought 82-77 overtime loss Sunday afternoon to Southern Conference foe Western Carolina at the Greensboro Coliseum. The wild back-and-forth game saw 18 tie scores and 13 lead changes before the Catamounts out-scored the Spartans 11-6 in the overtime period.
“I thought we played hard, played with a lot of effort and good togetherness,” head coach Wes Miller said. “There were some really positive things for us and we were in position to win the game late. Down the stretch, Western Carolina made more plays than we did, which you have to give them credit first and foremost. This is something that we can build on the rest of the season. When you get defensive stops late in the game when you have a lead you can build upon that lead and put the pressure on the opposition. We had leads in regulation and overtime, we just were not able to come up with a stop or two that we needed late.”
Junior forward Kyle Cain (Chicago, Ill./Arizona State) led five Spartans in double figures in the loss as he posted his 10th double-double of the season with a team-high 19 points and 12 rebounds. Cain connected on 6-of-14 from the field and 7-of-10 from the free throw line, while also dishing out three assists in 38 minutes of action.
UNCG (12-15. 5-7 SoCon) connected on 47.4 percent (27-of-57) from the field but hit just 25 percent (3-of-12) from three-point land in the loss. The Spartans and Catamounts combined for 61 total free throws with UNCG hitting 66.7 percent (20-of-3) while WCU hit 80.6 percent (25-of-31) from the charity stripe.
Western Carolina (15-12, 8-4 SoCon) picked up the victory as it connected on 43.9 percent (25-of-57) from the field and hit 7-of-18 (38.9%) from three-point land. Four different Catamounts scored in double figures with Brandon Boggs leading the way with 25 points and James Sinclair added 14 points.
The two teams came out of the gate battling back and forth for most of the first half. Western Carolina took the early lead at 18-14 as it scored six straight to force a UNCG timeout as Tom Tankelewicz hit back-to-back three-pointers. The Spartans regrouped and settled in on defense holding the Catamounts in check as they posted a 9-1 run to take a 23-19 lead.
Junior Nicholas Paulos (Salt Lake City, Utah/New Hampton School) got the run going with a three-pointer out of a timeout while redshirt freshman R.J. White (Frisco, Texas/Frisco) scored three points in the run. The Spartans kept the momentum and took a 31-27 lead as freshman Tyrone Outlaw (Roxboro, N.C./Person County) converted an acrobatic three-point play.
The two teams went into the locker room with the Spartans holding a 33-31 lead as the hotly contested battle saw four tie scores and two lead changes. UNCG connected on 46.2 percent (12-of-26) from the field and hit 2-of-5 (40%) from long range in the half. White led the team with eight points off the bench as he was 3-of-3 from the field while Outlaw added six points. Cain added six points and seven rebounds in the first half.
Western Carolina was held to 37 percent (10-of-27) shooting from the field but hit 45.5 percent (5-of-11) from long range in the opening 20 minutes. Tankelewicz and Brandon Boggs led the way with 13 points apiece in the opening frame as they combined to go 5-of-6 from long range.
After White hit two free throws to give UNCG a 45-41 lead, the Catamounts posted a 10-2 run to take a 51-47 lead with 9:49 remaining. Trey Sumler, the Catamounts’ leading scorer, scored all 10 points in the run in a span of 3:25 as he was 3-of-3 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line in the stretch.
The Spartans answered right back with a 7-0 run to take a 54-51 lead. Paulos started the spurt with a three-pointer off a set play while sophomore Jordan Potts (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) hit two free throws and Cain nailed a 15-foot jumper.
The two teams traded five-point spurts back and forth and the Catamounts took a 69-67 lead as Sinclair scored with 1:53 remaining. Cain tied the game for the 14th time by hitting two more free throws to make it a 69-69 contest. The Spartans came up with a key defensive stop as White played great post defense and forced Tawaski King into a turnover.
UNCG took a late 71-69 lead with 40.2 seconds remaining as freshman Tevon Saddler (Aberdeen, Md./St. Frances Academy) scored just before the shot clock expired giving the Spartans the lead. The Spartans committed a foul with 16.0 seconds left in regulation and Justin Browning stepped up and hit two free throws to tie the game at 71-71. The Spartans had a chance for the game-winning shot in the final seconds but Potts’ three-pointer was blocked by Boggs with four seconds left. Boggs started out on a fast break but Potts hustled and stripped the ball to keep the game tied heading to overtime.
The teams headed into overtime and the see-saw battle continued as they traded baskets. Freshman guard Diante Baldwin (Greensboro, N.C./High Point Christian) gave the Spartans a 75-73 lead as he drove down the lane and scored, but WCU answered back as King hit two free throws.
After a missed three-pointer by Potts, Boggs connected on two from the charity stripe for a 77-75 lead. Cain answered back with a dunk off a Saddler assist to knot the game at 77-77, the last tie of the contest. Boggs gave the Catamounts the lead for good as he nailed a jumper with 1:13 remaining. Saddler drove down the lane on the ensuing possession and drew a lot of contact, but his shot came up just short. The Spartans elected to play defense and held WCU in check, but a late foul call in the possession sent Sumler to the line where he hit two free throws to seal the victory.
Saddler finished the game with 11 points and four rebounds as he was 5-of-12 from the field, but only went to the free throw line three times. White continued his strong play with 10 points and four rebounds off the bench as he hit 3-of-3 form the field and 4-of-5 from the free throw line. Sophomore Kayel Locke (Aberdeen, Md./McDonogh) ended with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting while Paulos added 10 points before fouling out in the second half after just 21 minutes of play.
Sumler finished 13 points, six rebounds and five assists as he was 3-of-11 from the field but 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Tankelewicz finished with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting while King added nine points.
The Spartans continue their three-game home stretch Wednesday night as they host Triad rival Elon. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum.
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